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9 Strategies to Engage Meeting Attendees

It seems we spend too much of our work lives in meetings. Last week I was in meetings for 27 hours (seriously!). How about you?

If we’re going to spend so much time in these meetings, they may as well be a good use of our time. Recently I had an opportunity to facilitate a 60-minute session about creating more engagement during meetings at global NGO I-TECH during a “Lunch & Learn” event. Following are 9 tips I shared during the session to help facilitate more engaging meetings.

Keeping Structure & Focus

1. Agenda: It may sound basic, but you’d be surprised at how many meetings take place without an agenda. Adding the following items to your meeting agenda will help keep the meeting on topic and on time:

  • Overall purpose/things to be accomplished during the meeting
  • Topics
  • Classification of each topic (information-only item, item for discussion, follow-up item, etc.)
  • Amount of time devoted to each specific topic
  • Person responsible for each topic
  • Specific goal/why are you talking about each topic

2. Rigorous prioritization: Ask yourself if you need to burn valuable meeting time by rattling off a bunch of updates or if you can communicate these updates by some other means (ie: sending out a weekly email with updates). If people really need to know the information in order to do something with it, then send out the information in advance and hold them accountable for knowing the information through a Q&A session during the meeting. Simply bestowing information upon meeting attendees is an invitation for them to check their email or send a tweet that ends in #boredtodeath.

Ensuring People Show Up Prepared

3. Send agenda and expectations in advance: If you want people to show up prepared, you need to give them at least 48 (business) hours’ notice with the meeting agenda and any questions they should come prepared to discuss.

Generating Discussion or Brainstorming

4. Small groups: Share information during your meeting, break into small groups for initial reaction, then have large group report-backs.

5. Large group discussion: Post a discussion question in the front of the room (PPT, flipchart or handout) or using a web conference tool (in the event of a virtual meeting) in order to keep everyone focused on the question at hand.

6. Brainstorming (Part 1): Post flipcharts with various discussion prompts around the room, break into small groups, give groups 2 minutes per station to generate ideas, then rotate to the next flipchart.

7. Brainstorming (Part 2): Give everyone a note card or post-it, ask them to write an idea, then collect cards as they leave the room.

Follow-up Items

8. Timely reminders: Send previous meeting minutes or action items that are coming due in advance with a reminder of expectations and responsibilities.

9. Time limits: Allocate a specific amount of time on the agenda and ensure people responsible for follow-up or action items are aware of the time they will be allotted.

What did I miss? Use the comments section below to let me (and the rest of the world) know if you have a particularly effective idea to engage folks in your meetings.

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