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How to Lead an Effective Meeting

No More Snoozers: How to Lead an Effective Meeting

In Verizon Conferencing’s “Meetings in America” study, 91% of meeting attendees admitted to daydreaming during meetings. Nearly 40% of the respondents said they’ve taken a nap during a meeting. Are people sleeping through your meetings?

With attention at a premium in today’s world, keeping people engaged, even when they’re sitting right in front of you, is one of the biggest challenges you face when leading a meeting. If they’re not literally asleep, your participants might be texting, checking their emails or just generally tuned out. Telling people to put away their phones isn’t the answer. Making your meetings more effective is.

In addition to collaborating on ideas and projects, meetings can be a great opportunity to engage employees and keep them connected, especially when you have a virtual workforce. But don’t waste that valuable time. There are some strategies you can apply, based on what we know about how the brain works, to capture and keep your team’s attention throughout the meeting and make it a worthwhile experience for everyone. Get started with these three questions:

1. Are your meetings mostly a one-way lecture?
In that same Verizon Conferencing study, 92% of meeting attendees said they value meetings that provide them with the opportunity to contribute. Direction is important, but to really engage the thinking on your team—and get the benefits of it—you need to make sure everyone has the chance to contribute, and that everyone actively listens to others’ ideas. This also means that your job is about more than just leading and talking; it’s about facilitating. Pay attention to the dynamics at play in the group. Are some voices the loudest, while others are rarely heard at all? Invite participation, ask questions and encourage “outlier” ideas and perspectives to get to the rich discussion and collaboration your participants’ brains crave.

2. Are your meetings boring?
Here’s a simple but often overlooked fact about the brain: People don’t pay attention to boring things! People aren’t falling asleep in meetings because they’re exhausted by all the stimulating activities. The obvious but ignored truth is, a lot of meetings are excruciatingly dull. You can blame your participants’ brains, but the real blame lies with the person who keeps holding boring meetings. Mix it up and incorporate different activities to provide the stimulus the brain needs to stay engaged. Try using humor, novelty, video and stories as appropriate.

3. Are you letting people off the hook?
We live in a world where discomfort is seen as a bad thing. We want to smooth the way and sidestep the uneasy conversations or difficult problems. We look for the safety nets. But while the tendency is to avoid discomfort, that’s where learning happens. Your teams will be able to work their way through the tough problems in a more complete and satisfying way when they dig into the issues head on rather than waiting for someone to provide the “right” answer. Don’t jump in or shut down the discussion prematurely. Your job is to provide a safe environment for them to take the necessary risks together.

And finally, here’s some more food for thought: Why not make the operations of your team meeting a team effort, too? In other words, don’t feel that it’s all on you to come up with ways to keep the meetings engaging. Involve your team. Find out what they want and what works best for them. With recurring meetings in particular, it’s easy to fall into a routine and continue with it, even if it’s outlived its usefulness or the format no longer serves the purpose. So do a periodic check-in with the team to make sure what you’re doing still makes sense.

There are some fun, quick exercises you can conduct with your team to get them involved in the process. Download our new guide, Meetings That Actually Work: Your Toolkit for Ending Meeting Misery for Good, to access those exercises, as well as sample agendas, checklists, worksheets and Whole Brain® meeting activity ideas to help you plan, facilitate and manage meetings your team will love.

Isn’t it time you put an end to snooze-worthy meetings once and for all? Before you meet again, download the toolkit and get your plan together for engaging every thinker on your team. 

Get your toolkit for running better meetings

Tags: Leadership Advice, Meeting Design, employee engagement

The four-color, four-quadrant graphic, HBDI® and Whole Brain® are trademarks of Herrmann Global, LLC.

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