5 Simple Rules for Running an Engaging Meeting

5 Simple Rules for Running an Engaging Meeting


Mention a meeting and you’re likely to encounter a range of responses, few of them enthusiastic. In many ways, meetings act as a microcosm of the way your company works as a whole: if the workplace is collaborative and open, meetings will be as well, and if there’s a strict hierarchy, that’s likely to be on display. But meetings also offer an excellent opportunity for managers to influence their workplace culture for the better. They’re face-to-face events with the whole team, providing an opportunity for shared communication and team values to be at their very best. The following tips can help you make meetings work for you, not against you.

1. Invite players, not spectators

Don’t invite people to a meeting that don’t need to be there. While we may think it’s better to over-invite to a meeting then miss someone, it’s actually counterproductive. The more people in a meeting, the less responsibility each person has and the less engaged they’re likely to be. Just like the ‘bystander effect’, where individuals within a crowd are unlikely to take action on the assumption that somebody else will do so, spectators at your meeting are more likely to induce paralysis than action.

Instead of large whole-team meetings, consider holding two or three smaller, shorter meetings with a tighter focus on a particular task. That will cut down on unnecessary noise and give the players more opportunity to be heard. Colleagues are also more likely to speak openly when they’re in smaller groups, which encourages innovative thinking and honesty.

2. Get people moving

Our brains are more engaged when our bodies are active. Instead of letting your team slump around a meeting table, find ways to get them moving so they stay alert. If you can do so practically, take the meeting outside in the fresh air. Inside, introduce active tasks throughout the meeting – for example, instead of a show of hands to carry a motion, get people to stand up in support or sit down if they disagree. Even a small amount of activity makes a big difference to concentration and the camaraderie in the room.

3. Stick to a schedule

An effective meeting balances the need for efficiency with the desire to let everyone have a meaningful say. This is an area where a lot of managers struggle, so if you’re amongst them, you’re in good company. You don’t want to squash someone who’s speaking up, but let them go on too long and you’ll see the rest of your staff get restless.

Unless you’re listening to an exceptional public speaker, most of the audience’s attention will fall off within 5 minutes. Keep a subtle eye on your watch, and if someone runs past that length of time, try cutting them off politely and giving the floor to someone else.

Similarly, make sure that there’s a written agenda, even if there’s no formal requirement to have one, so that everyone can see what the focus of the meeting is. That gives you something to refer back to if you feel that you’re going off topic.

When meetings finish on time and cover the main points, everyone feels as if their time is respected within the organisation.

4. To feed or not to feed?

Offering refreshments at meetings goes a long way towards creating a more positive atmosphere. When we eat, our brains become more engaged: chewing gum, in fact, has been shown to have positive correlations with concentration. While we don’t recommend handing out the Juicy Fruit, the motion of chewing is what we’re aiming for, and healthy snacks can have a similar effect.

For all meetings, especially those where everyone is expected to speak up, make sure there’s plenty of water to keep participants hydrated. For longer meetings, incorporate snacks that are easy to handle and eat, so that attention stays on what’s being said rather than dealing with messy food. Whole grains, proteins and fruit will all boost blood sugar without causing a crash an hour later.

5. Ban technology

It’s a classroom tactic, but it works. Your attendees probably don’t need to be checking their emails regularly during the meeting, so there’s no reason for them to be typing away on a laptop or checking their phone. If people want to take notes, encourage them to do so by hand; research indicates that you’ll retain the information better if you have to write it down manually anyway.

What do you think?

What are your golden rules for running an engaging and meaningful meeting? Comment to share your best and worst meeting experiences!

This article was written by Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Business CollectiveEngageEntrepreneurLinkedIn, Fortune, The Guardian, NPR and Open Forum

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