If you tell your team that you’re about to have a meeting, it’s more likely that you’ll be met with a chorus of groans than delight. One of the main reasons that meetings are held in poor regard is because they are seen as boring and a waste of time. But the problem isn’t meetings in and of themselves—the issue is that many meetings don’t start right.
The first few minutes of a meeting set the tone for the rest of the meeting. If you start off the meeting on the wrong foot, people are going to be taken off track or will zone out altogether. Here are some tips for starting meetings in a way that gets and keeps people’s attention.
Start the meeting by answering the question, 'What’s in it for me?', for the attendees. You probably stated the purpose of the meeting in your invite but it’s a good idea to restate it again at the beginning of the meeting. If you can’t seem to come up with a good purpose for your meeting, that might be a sign that you should cancel the meeting altogether because it’s not worth having.
Make the meeting about the attendees. Spend more time talking about their goals, anxieties, and aspirations than about yourself and your needs. You can capture the attention of attendees by reminding them of a need or pain point they have.
Then, follow up with specifically why your team is in the meeting. While it’s not necessary to go around the room and explain why each and every team member is there, you do want to make it clear that everyone is there for a reason. Don’t invite someone to a meeting if they don’t absolutely need to be there.
Lead your meeting with positivity. For example, you could ask each meeting participant to share something that is going well. If the group is too large for that, praise the group for a recent accomplishment instead. It’s important to always start meetings with an uplifting note so that people associate meetings with positive things rather than bad news or lecturing.
Acknowledgement is a vital emotional need that humans have. You can help to meet this need by acknowledging your team’s accomplishments in a meeting. This helps to create a sense of belonging and community. If you create this feeling for your team, they will repay you with their attention and participation.
You can also ask each meeting participant to share something one of their coworkers recently achieved or something impressive they did. Alternatively, they could share something they appreciate about the person sitting to the right or left of them. This is a powerful motivator.
Start your meeting by sharing an interesting quote or statistic that relates to the content of the meeting. A compelling quote or statistic can help to persuade meeting attendees to listen to what you’re going to say.
A quote or statistic can also help to generate discussion. Perhaps you can state a quote and then have your team discuss its significance as a warm-up to the main topic of your meeting. Don’t tax meeting attendees from the very beginning with abstract reasoning or in-depth technical concepts.
You could also tell a story to get into the topic of the meeting. A story has the power to teach an important lesson or even get people to laugh.
Facilitating an engaging, interactive meeting is no easy feat. It takes a lot of practice, but the above tips will hopefully get you off to a good start.