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Meeting Tips

How to Run an Emergency Meeting (Mistakes + Solutions)

Published
April 4, 2024
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6
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Last updated
April 4, 2024
Arianna Rulli
How to Run an Emergency Meeting (Mistakes + Solutions)
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Remember when the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone caught fire on multiple occasions in 2016?

This was a clear example of poor crisis management by Samsung which was criticized for its lack of transparency and slow response.

Even large companies can be vulnerable during emergency situations, which is why it's important to have a well-defined response plan and stay adaptable.

In this blog, we'll take a 360-degree look at everything related to conducting an emergency board meeting: what it means, how to plan and run one, and common mistakes to avoid (plus solutions).

What Is an Emergency Board Meeting?

An emergency meeting is an unscheduled gathering that happens when unexpected issues arise that require immediate attention and can't wait for a regular meeting.

These meetings are typically called by the company's board of directors, although the CEO may also have the authority to convene them.

Remember: not everyone has the power to call an emergency session.

Emergency meetings bring together board members, stakeholders, and other key figures to tackle problems and chart a course of action for unexpected situations.

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to conducting such meetings. In fact, boards typically establish their own rules to govern how emergency meetings are handled.

Emergency Meetings vs. Regular Meetings

Emergency meetings are convened with minimal notice to tackle urgent issues that demand immediate action, diverging from what scheduled meetings can accommodate.

They aim to manage crises and quickly establish action plans, often with limited preparation and a flexible agenda to navigate unforeseen challenges.

In contrast, regular meetings are methodically scheduled, focusing on routine business and strategic planning.

They aim to facilitate information sharing, track progress, and guide decision-making for future operations.

These meetings typically feature a pre-determined agenda, allowing for thorough preparation and structured discussions, including time allocated for presentations and decision-making processes.

When to Have Emergency Meetings

What exactly constitutes an emergency?

Emergency meetings can vary depending on the nature of the crisis and who needs to be involved.

Below are some common scenarios that warrant a special meeting to deal with an emergency.

  • Executive Team Meeting: This gathers senior leaders (CEO, CFO, COO, etc.) to make high-level decisions about the company's response to the crisis.
  • Departmental Emergency Meeting: Specific departments like IT, HR, or Public Relations might convene their own emergency meeting to address the crisis from their area of expertise.
  • Crisis Response Team Meeting: Companies with dedicated crisis response teams will activate them during an emergency. This specialized group huddles to develop a comprehensive response strategy.
  • Emergency Board Meeting: As discussed earlier, this convenes the board of directors to address critical issues that require their immediate oversight and decision-making power.

What to Do Before a Crisis Happens

  1. Establish Clear Communication Protocols and Decision-Making Chains: Define who can call an emergency meeting, how stakeholders will be informed, and which communication channels will be used. Clarify decision-making roles to ensure swift action during crises. This minimizes confusion and streamlines response efforts when time is of the essence.
  2. Develop a Comprehensive Emergency Response Plan (ERP): An ERP serves as a roadmap for navigating various crisis scenarios. Consider the diverse range of emergencies your company could face, from natural disasters to cybersecurity breaches. Outline specific action steps for each scenario, detailing roles and responsibilities for key personnel. Ensure that the plan is regularly reviewed, updated, and communicated across the organization.
  3. Conduct Regular Training and Drills: Schedule routine training sessions and drills to familiarize employees with their roles in the ERP. Simulate crisis scenarios to identify areas for improvement and enhance overall readiness. Practicing emergency procedures regularly fosters a culture of preparedness and empowers employees to respond confidently in high-pressure situations.

Steps for an Effective Emergency Meeting

To ensure a successful emergency meeting, follow these 7 steps, which provide a basic framework for running such a meeting effectively.

Prepare Before the Meeting

  1. Gather the Details: Collect all relevant information beforehand to ensure a concise presentation at the meeting's outset. Keep explanations brief and focused.
  2. Establish Meeting Logistics: Set up the meeting space, whether physical or virtual, ensuring technical requirements are met. Confirm attendance and readiness of key participants.

To Do During the Meeting

  1. Define the Emergency: Kick off the emergency meeting by clearly outlining the problem and its company impact.
  1. Decision Points: Determine the key decisions that need to be made during the meeting. Anticipate potential hurdles or areas needing group agreement. Present clear options with pros and cons for each, facilitating informed decision-making.
  2. Immediate Action Items: Brainstorm solutions to contain or lessen the issue. Prioritize actions based on urgency and impact, then assign clear ownership for each critical step.
  3. Communication Plan: Formulate a communication plan to keep everyone informed. Identify internal and external stakeholders who need updates. Choose communication channels (email, internal platform, etc.) and craft a clear message outlining the situation, actions taken, and next steps.
  4. Next Steps: Chart the long-term course for addressing the situation. Assign leadership for the ongoing response and schedule follow-up meetings to monitor progress and adapt to new developments.

6 Common Mistakes and Solutions

Even large companies can easily make mistakes during emergency meetings. That's why it's important to be aware of the most common pitfalls to be able to avoid them.

(1) Lack of Clear Direction

Without a roadmap, attendees might not understand the meeting's purpose or the specific issues needing discussion.

This leads to rambling discussions, wasted time, and missed opportunities to address key points. The meeting might end without addressing the core issues of the emergency.

Solutions

  • Clearly define and communicate the meeting's objectives and agenda to all participants in advance as best you can with the limited time and information.
  • Designate a facilitator or meeting leader responsible for keeping discussions on track and ensuring that key issues are addressed.
  • Encourage active participation by providing opportunities for attendees to ask questions and share insights, fostering a collaborative atmosphere conducive to problem-solving.

(2) Poor Communication

Inaccurate or incomplete information can lead to misunderstandings, hindering collaboration and effective action.

If attendees don't understand the situation or the decisions made, they can't contribute effectively or implement solutions correctly.

Without clear communication, valuable insights or alternative solutions from attendees might be lost.

Solutions

  • The meeting leader should strive for clear, concise, and factual communication.
  • Encourage active listening and open communication where attendees can ask questions and express concerns openly.
  • Utilize various communication methods like email, text, or instant messaging platforms to relay critical updates during or after the meeting.

(3) Technical Difficulties

Technical glitches like power outages, internet crashes, or malfunctioning equipment can disrupt communication and prevent remote participants from joining or contributing.

This can hinder the decision-making process by limiting the available expertise.

Solutions

  • Ensure backup communication channels and remote participation options in case of technical difficulties or physical inaccessibility.
  • Utilize phone lines, video conferencing platforms with redundancy, or online collaboration tools to ensure communication continues even if one method fails.
  • Beforehand, test all the technology you plan to use during the meeting to identify and address potential problems.

(4) Emotional Decision-Making

Under emotional distress, quick and impulsive decisions might be made without fully considering the consequences.

The focus on immediate action can lead to overlooking potentially better solutions that require a more measured approach.

Emotional outbursts or arguments can further escalate a tense situation, hindering collaboration and constructive problem-solving.

Solutions

  • Encourage a calm and rational approach to problem-solving.
  • Focus on factual information and objective analysis to guide decision-making.
  • If emotions run high, take short breaks to allow everyone to cool down and revisit the issue with a clearer head.

(5) Unfamiliarity With Emergency Protocols

If a company hasn't established and communicated clear emergency meeting protocols, it can lead to confusion and delays during the actual meeting.

Unclear protocols can result in disorganized communication, hindering the flow of information and collaborative decision-making.

Attendees might be unsure of their roles, responsibilities, and the overall meeting structure, leading to wasted time and confusion.

Solutions (before emergencies happen)

  • Develop clear protocols outlining the different types of emergency meetings, communication channels, notification processes, and roles and responsibilities for attendees.
  • Train employees on the emergency protocols and regularly communicate these protocols to keep everyone informed and prepared.
  • Conducting simulated emergency meeting drills can help familiarize everyone with the protocols and identify areas for improvement.

(6) Failure to Document the Meeting

Without proper documentation of key decisions, action items, and discussions, it becomes difficult to track progress, hold individuals accountable, or learn from the experience for future emergencies.

If details are not documented, future meetings might spend time rehashing past decisions instead of focusing on new developments.

Solutions

  • Record meetings with Wudpecker to always have a record of the key decisions, action items, and next steps discussed.

Conclusion

This blog has outlined the essence of emergency meetings, differentiating them from regular meetings, detailing their types, and guiding through effective preparation, execution, and follow-up steps.

We've highlighted the importance of a clear agenda, effective communication, and the avoidance of common pitfalls that can derail these crucial gatherings.

By embracing a proactive, adaptable approach and fostering open, efficient dialogue, organizations can navigate the unforeseen with confidence and resilience.

Armed with these insights, you're better equipped to handle emergency meetings, turning potential obstacles into opportunities for decisive action and positive change.

Let's remember, in the face of uncertainty, our preparedness, agility, and unity become our strongest assets.

FAQs

What Is an Emergency Meeting?

An emergency meeting is a gathering called to address urgent issues that cannot wait until the next regular meeting.

Such meetings are typically convened by the company's board of directors, although the CEO may also have the authority to convene them. These meetings manage critical situations demanding quick resolution.

What Do You Call an Urgent Meeting?

There are several terms used to describe urgent meetings, depending on the situation's severity:

  • Emergency Meeting: This is the most common and direct term, highlighting the urgent nature and need for immediate attention.
  • Special Meeting: This is a broader term for any meeting called outside the regular schedule. You might combine it with "urgent" for clarity (e.g., Urgent Special Meeting).
  • Immediate Meeting: This name also emphasizes the need for attendees to gather as soon as possible.

Is It Emergency or Emergent Meeting?

The correct term is "emergency meeting." These meetings are convened to address issues that emerge suddenly and require immediate attention from the members of a board.

Emergency meetings are called in response to unforeseen circumstances such as emergency situations, or imminent threats, where the need for quick and decisive action is paramount.

The term emphasizes the urgent and unplanned nature of the meeting, distinct from regular or scheduled meetings, to deal with crises that cannot be postponed.

How Do You Write an Emergency Meeting?

Writing an emergency meeting involves several key steps to ensure compliance with notice requirements and to facilitate effective communication among all members.

  1. Identify and articulate the emergency or urgent nature of the situation
  2. Inform all the meeting attendees as soon as possible, detailing the date, time, location and agenda of the meeting.
  3. Remember to allow for electronic communication or remote participation, especially if physical presence is impossible due to transportation failures or power outages.

The communication must comply with any legal requirements for public notice if the meeting involves a public body, ensuring that the emergency nature of the meeting is understood and that the public body approves the convening of such a meeting.

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