Plan Your Best Meeting: When Your Participants Aren’t Ready to Work

It happens to us all. You’ve prepared for your workshop, sent out the pre-work and then your participants aren’t ready to work. It can sometimes be hard to get participants ready to work because they are usually the ones who are running the businesses we’re supporting. How much more can you really ask of them? Here are a few things I’ve tried over the years.

Changes you can make to your workshop

The first thing we can do is use all the levers that we can control like:

  1. Giving appropriate time to do the pre-work
  2. Being respectful of the amount of pre-work we give. Or break up the pre-work into more consumable chunks across multiple, shorter meetings
  3. Checking in with the group to explain the importance of the pre-work before sending it and, if necessary, adjusting the meeting schedule to times when they can commit to being ready
  4. For longer workshops, create a working agreement with the group about pre-work before you start workshops. I often dangle the “we can get done faster if you’re prepared” carrot in front of them as incentive to get ready.

Help the participants help themselves get ready

Sometimes these levers just don’t work so we have to get creative. If the group isn’t ready to participate:

  1. I’ll ask if they’d like to use the time to get themselves ready. I give back the time or I leave the meeting so they can do prepare together.
  2. we’ll decide together when they can be ready and I’ll reschedule the meeting based on that commitment.

Ultimately, my rule is that I will not read documents to my participants so the options above might seem a little a draconian. These might impact my timeline but, honestly, no more than having to extend meetings because participants aren’t prepared.

Have you had this happen to you too? What did you do to get your group ready to work? Drop me a note at

Published by Susan Moore

Co-chair Charlotte Carolina Club - Carolina Club Ambassador - Former Chair Jacksonville (FL) Carolina Club - Former Carolina Alumni Admissions Program representative

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