Meetings often receive criticism for being awkward and tiring, with memes and jokes highlighting their challenges. Back-to-back meetings can disrupt our daily tasks, whether online or in person. However, the traditional format of meetings has remained largely unchanged, except for the shift to virtual platforms due to Covid.
Beneath the humor lies an important message: traditional meetings may not always be effective, and facilitators must strive for improvement. To inspire more engaging and interactive meetings in 2023 and beyond, we offer valuable thoughts, reflections, and ideas.
Running a meeting often have a negative reputation, but you can make them more engaging by renaming them to reflect their purpose. "Workshops" indicate collaboration, while "training" implies learning and skill development. By defining the meeting, attendees will know what to expect and come prepared. Use terms like "updates" for new information and "check-ins" to gather input.
We don't advocate for fast-paced meetings with limited information, but we do believe in eliminating unnecessary elements. Creating agenda items and estimating time for each section ensures concise and efficient discussions. It's also important to stick to the meeting time, avoiding unnecessary stretching.
Remember, our attention spans are limited, and even the most engaging topic loses impact after a certain point. Less is more in meetings.
Here's a tip: If a niche topic arises that isn't relevant to the group, consider discussing it separately to save everyone from unnecessary back-and-forths.
Virtual meetings have taught us the importance of giving everyone a voice and ensuring inclusive participation, regardless of their location or internet connection. Whether online or in-person, it's crucial to make sure that everyone can join and contribute. Those on the other side of the camera are just as significant as those in the room.
In addition to enabling attendance, the next vital step is fostering an environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking up. Often, the pressure of speaking publicly can be overwhelming, causing valuable ideas and discussions to remain confined to individuals' thoughts.
By creating a safe space where anyone can contribute equally, you can enhance both your meetings and workplace culture.
Top tip: Be sure to send a Google Meet, Zoom, or Teams link in the meeting invite.
PowerPoint can be a valuable tool in capable hands, but for many, it's an unfriendly experience and a source of jokes. Bland slides and awkward transitions can lead to daydreaming. To make meetings more engaging, consider switching to alternative presentation software like Mentimeter.
It allows you to involve meeting participants through live polls, quizzes, and Q&As, creating an interactive experience. Other tools, even simple ones like a pen and Post-it notes, can also transform a boring meeting into an interactive one. Just ensure that the chosen tools enhance the experience without adding unnecessary complexity.
To maximize the effectiveness of business meetings, minimize unnecessary technology. Communicate the requirements to participants through the meeting agenda, for example: "No laptops, but please bring your smartphone for voting with Mentimeter." The goal is to minimize distractions and keep everyone engaged.
We often find ourselves multitasking during meetings, whether it's work-related or social messaging, diverting our attention from the discussion. As a facilitator, limiting tech usage encourages efficient time management. Keeping people away from their laptops reduces the temptation to answer emails or work on unrelated tasks. Emphasize efficiency and a distraction-free environment.
One way to make your meetings more engaging is to make them purpose-driven and to develop the meeting agenda around the purpose. By simply having a clear purpose, agenda, and, perhaps, even a goal for the meeting, you can see more clearly if the meeting fulfilled its purpose.
Don’t forget that this is especially relevant for recurring meetings. You may need to reevaluate and see if they need to be discontinued or adjusted if they aren’t fulfilling their purpose.
So the world of Zoom, Teams, and Google Meets meetings made us feel like we needed to go around the call and kick things off with some type of icebreaker. As good as an idea as that may have been, there were plenty of meetings that either recycled the same icebreakers until the ice was well and truly crushed or that used something a bit too cheesy and forced.
So, the next time you hold a meeting, kick things off with an icebreaker. We have plenty of templates and ideas that you can use and these range from some fun ways to get to know your colleagues better to conversation starters designed to kickstart some chit-chat at a conference.
Hearing the same voice over and over can not only become repetitive but will lead us to drown out that voice. Delegating facilitating duties can be a great way to spread the responsibility for the meetings, keep things fresh, and improve the buy-in of others. Now that they are in charge of meetings you may see some creative ways of updating your team and communicating the latest news.
By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail. Don’t arrive at your meeting room only to realize that you forgot to invite a new team member, or that you never actually booked a meeting room and now have to scramble to find one.
A simple checklist or action plan, even one filled with the most simple and mundane tasks, will help every one of us arrive primed and ready to go. It’s good to have a decision-maker ready to follow through with all of the action points and to-dos once the meeting wraps up.
Well, we mentioned icebreakers previously and this is a good starting point. But there are other ways to jump into proceedings. If this is a weekly team meeting, then briefly recapping the past week can be useful, as could a quick run-through of updates.
If your meeting is a brainstorming session or a workshop, mapping out the itinerary and plan of action will help to prepare everyone. When running a client meeting, consider giving a brief introduction if you and the client are unfamiliar with one another.
Luckily for you and me, we have written extensively on this very topic, so why don’t we just redirect you in that direction? There are plenty of tips and tricks on how to end every one of your meetings with a bang.
So we have mentioned what makes a meeting successful, but what are some of the signs that a meeting was less successful? Some examples may be seeing people working on something else while the meeting is going on, a lack of participation (think blank faces, no one willing to answer questions, etc.), as well as a general lack of concentration are the tell-tale signs that a meeting is going poorly.
This as well as one or just a few voices dominating the conversation will lead to any type of meeting being a failure.
While a complete meeting revolution may be the stuff of dreams, we can at least make them incrementally better. Meetings will continue to take place every day and we will often spend a good chunk of our weeks taking part in meetings.
By improving this experience, for everyone, we can make those few hours more enjoyable and engaging, thus leading to a more productive and exciting work week.