We’ve all been there:
A meeting doesn’t seem to pick up and no one wants to be the first to break the silence. Or a meeting goes on and on and no one takes the lead to end it.
It’s no surprise that the most frequent complaints about meetings are that they are disorganized, poorly prepared, and no clear decisions are made during them.
On this blog, we’ve talked about the dos and don’ts of effective meetings. You might know that a meeting should start on time and be as short as possible. But that might be easier said than done. So how do you start and end a meeting effectively?
Here’s what you need to know about leading meetings effectively:
Leading meetings effectively: How to start a meeting
First, we’ll take a closer look at some worthwhile ways to start a meeting. The idea here is to get meeting participants engaged from the start, which leads to better and more productive meetings. Let’s dive right in!
Start the meeting with a fun icebreaker
If you tend to have a hard time getting people to speak up, you’ll like this strategy. That’s because icebreakers help you cut through psychological barriers from the start.
You see, meeting participants might be kept back by things like feeling awkward and self-aware. By introducing icebreakers to your meetings, you help them overcome those things.
So, what type of icebreaker should you use?
There are a few things you might want to take into consideration. First and foremost, a fun icebreaker might be a question you ask the group and that’s completely unrelated to the meeting topic.
The idea is to make people feel comfortable with one another. This means that your question needs to be something people feel they have an easy and fun answer to.
In other words, don’t choose a question most people would feel awkward answering (unless it aligns with your company culture). Ideally, the question should be positioned to tie your meeting participants closer together.
For example, you might ask a “Would you rather?” question. Such a question might be “Would you rather spend a week in the Bahamas or the Alpes and why?” or “What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you about doing work you love?”
Tell a story or share an insightful quote
In general, people’s attention span is 8 seconds.
Meetings are no exception. Meeting participants have other work tasks to get done, projects to work on and private lives to manage. At the same time, you want them to be fully focused during your meeting to ensure that your meeting makes a difference.
Fortunately, there’s an effective remedy:
In fact, storytelling is a powerful tool to help people focus and feel engaged.
Stories that build the strongest emotional connection are told in less than 30 seconds and they make you focus on one, single idea.
So, at your next meeting, consider starting the meeting with a brief story. That story could relate to the focus of your meeting or it could be about a project’s general goals. You could even tie it together with your organization’s values or purpose.
Another, perhaps simpler way is to use quotes. Quotes tend to be concise and focus on one thing. So why not make it a habit to start every meeting with a quote that goes hand in hand with your work culture and goals?
Now you know how to use storytelling to help people focus during your meetings.
Want to know how toys can help you get more out of your meeting? Read on to find out.
Bring a bag of toys
If someone’s focus drifts away in the first few seconds, it’s hard to get them engaged at a later point. If you want to engage them, you have to do it from the get-go.
That’s why you might want to bring a bag of toys to your next meeting.
You see, similarly to kids, adults benefit from play. Among others, play helps relieve stress, improve brain function, and build connections with others.
So, what better way to tap into these benefits than to use toys during meetings?
For example, get meeting participants to throw around a ball or play with Playdoh as they speak. This way, you give them an outlet for their stress and help them release tension.
Granted, it might take some time to get people feel comfortable playing around. So why not use an icebreaker to get them in the right state of mind?
Leading meetings effectively: How to end a meeting
Congratulations, you now know how to start an effective meeting!
But that’s only half of the equation- you need to end it, too. Here, we go through some great methods you can use to cut your meeting short when the meeting time is up.
Share what you got out of the meeting
You’ve been there:
A meeting seems endless. Just when you think someone’s about to wrap up, a new item gets discussed.
So how do you get everyone to end the meeting on time?
Set a timer five minutes before the meeting is supposed to end. When the timer rings, you ask everyone to share what they got out of the meeting. Ask them to highlight the value, for example: “During this meeting, we’ve decided on the project scope, which will help us set out a step-by-step process” or “These are the 5 things I learned from John’s presentation: […].”
This does a few things. First, you figure out what your meeting participants value in your meetings. Second, you help your co-workers see the benefits of meetings.
Over time, these two things help you keep better meetings. In the short term, you keep your meetings short.
But what should you do if the timer goes off when someone’s speaking?
Give them a few seconds to finish their sentence. And if you’re in the middle of discussing something, schedule a quick 10-minute meeting at a later point.
With too much wiggle-room, it’s easy to start slacking on keeping the meeting time.
Ask everyone to share bottlenecks they’ve experienced recently
What’s another good way to wrap up meetings?
Asking everyone to briefly share bottlenecks they’ve experienced recently. Here,people share things that have kept them back over the past week. Others can then chime in and together, you come up with a solution or throw around ideas.
This way, meeting participants feel invested in each other’s work. Plus, you learn from each other and with this habit in place, it becomes easier and easier to share things during meetings.
To keep it short, you can limit every item you discuss to a couple of minutes. If things pop up that require more thorough discussion, you simply schedule a new meeting.
However, note that this method is best put to practice during weekly team meetings. If your meeting is a one-off meeting, this might be a waste of time.
But, is your purpose to develop a habit that makes it easy to end meetings on time every time? In that case, asking people to share their bottlenecks might just be what you’re looking for.
End it on a high note
Because so many meetings are mismanaged, they have a bad rap.
At the same time, you want people to associate them with something positive. That way, you make your future meetings that much more interesting and productive.
How do you do that, though?
Studies show that flattery increases employee engagement. So, what better way is there to end meetings on a high note than to generously spread kind words among meeting participants?
At the end of your next meeting, share something you thought your co-workers did well during the meeting or the past week. Alternatively, ask everyone to share something about a person sitting close to them, such as the person sitting on the left-hand side.
Keep it truthful, though- you don’t want to end up misleading someone on things they might have been able to do better. And to keep things short and sweet, keep it to a minute or two per participant.
Happier and more engaged meeting participants.
Conclusion: Start and end meetings the right way!
You’re all set!
These are our best tips for leading meetings effectively by starting and ending them the right way. The next step for you is to implement what you’ve learned.
Start with the tip you feel is simplest to put into action. Then, test the different options we just discussed to figure out what works best for you and your team.
Does it take some upfront work on your part? Yes, absolutely! But in the end, you’ll have more productive meetings. Not a bad trade-off, huh?
Now, I’d love to know:
Have you tried any of these methods? Or do you have some own tips to share? Write in the comments below!