by Art Pfenning | June 01, 2004

Meetings rarely come off without glitches, largely because of their greatest imponderable: attendees, whose needs and attitudes can’t always be anticipated. To find out how planners deal with problem attendees, M&C conducted an online survey in May.
    Half of the 408 respondents say they are asked to solve  attendee problems often or frequently during a typical meeting day, but only 12 percent report problems typically requiring more than an hour to solve.
     chartComparatively few lower-level employees (cited by 20 percent) or VIPs (14 percent) are the troublemakers. Middle managers (cited by 37 percent) and executives (29 percent) need the most attention. But take heart: When solving these problems, 49 percent of the respondents say they are thanked often or always. 
     Still, sometimes wisdom alone cannot prevail; 13 percent of those surveyed have called security or the police to handle an incident involving an attendee.
    For example, one planner reports, “A brawl broke out in the lobby after a cocktail reception. One attendee ended up with a fractured hand and a broken nose. He could not be bailed out [of jail] for 12 hours and missed the remainder of the meetings.”
    chartSometimes attendee behavior defies logic. Reports another planner: “The attendee was a lawyer who could not understand that the hotel was sold out. She refused to take a free night at a nearby hotel. She started to turn off all of the lights and take off her clothes and sleep on a sofa. We called the police, and she spent the night in jail.”chart