How to handle a meeting that’s gone wrong

Sometimes meetings can go wrong – whether you’re blindsided by a colleague with some new information or your presentation crashes and you freeze. Here are our tips on how to handle these awkward situations.

1. Take a break
Situation: Your presentation crashes and you can’t remember the rest of it

Solution: Rather than ending the meeting, simply take a break. This is perfect if you think you can handle the meeting but need to fix the problem or simply Google a few key stats to back up your argument or finish your presentation. It could be something as simple as a toilet break or calling 10 minutes for coffee.

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2. Be honest
Situation: A client asks you for a set of figures that you don’t have to hand

Solution: Honesty can be the best policy. If you try and lie or coast your way through the meeting you could end up doing more damage than an honest ‘I don’t know’. Try phrasing it more positively, for example say ‘Great question. I’m not sure but I’m going to go away and research that and I’ll email my findings over right away.’

3. Stay and fight
Situation: A colleague is determined to upset the meeting

Solution: If you back down or make excuses, it could give your colleague the upper hand which can be hard to get back. Stick out the meeting and try and win back the room. Try and move the meeting away from the person causing the disruption by handing the floor to a neutral.

4. Throw in a curveball
Situation: The meeting has got seriously off topic and you’re struggling to bring it back

Solution: You need to get the room’s focus back on you – throw in a curveball to do so. Something out of the ordinary will get people looking back to you. It could be playing a rock ballad on your phone or flashing images over your presentation. Think of it as a reset button for the meeting.

5. Make an excuse
Situation: The meeting has descended into chaos after a colleague attacks your facts and you don’t have an answer to hand

Solution: If the worst comes to the worst, sometimes you just need to get out of the room. In this situation, giving the wrong answer could be more trouble than it’s worth. However, admitting you don’t know could make you seem weak.

Make your excuses to leave or finish the meeting before going away to regroup and come back stronger. Tell them you have another meeting to get to or that the meeting room has been booked out and you need to wrap this one up.

Posted by Julie Tucker

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