7 Ways to Make Your Meetings More Engaging

Meetings can be the biggest waste of time. Make yours more productive by following these simple tips.
Author, Profit First
July 02, 2013

One of the challenges all business owners face is how to share information and ideas efficiently among staff. I had to learn this lesson the hard way. One of my businesses employed about 30 people, and my typical day saw roughly two meetings, each of which ran about an hour. I realized that my meetings were really more like hour-long lectures than useful information exchanges. While I can commend my staff for trying to conceal their catnaps, it occurred to me that there had to be a better, more efficient way to get things done. I had to find a way to not just wake my staff up, but also engage them.

Here are three steps I’ve discovered that will revitalize your meetings:

1. Develop meeting objectives as a group. Start with your premise and ask every meeting participant to contribute. Write each objective, along with the name of the person who contributed it, on a board at the front of the room. If people feel responsible for the content of the meeting, they’re far more likely to participate. Don’t worry if you have 15 objectives; participation is important, and your next step will streamline and focus the raw material. Make sure that they all voice their objective in their own words, even if you have many repeats.

2. Consolidate the list. Now, combine and condense your group’s objectives to a manageable number—three to five is achievable in a brief meeting. Share necessary information and work through solutions to problems you’ve identified.

RELATED: Hold More Meetings, Just Keep Them Short

3. Finally, confirm that each objective was achieved. When you model this efficient way to run a meeting, your team members will see the benefits of your goal-oriented approach, and they’ll not just pay attention, but they’ll participate. You’re demonstrating measurable progress, identifying and achieving objectives—their objectives.

Huddles and Micro-Meetings

Another tactic for keeping your team engaged is to discard hour-long-sit-down meetings for tightly focused, 15-minute stand-up meetings or huddles. Embrace the sports metaphor here—you’re a team, and it’s essential that you all be focused on the same end result. Providing a regular huddle for each member of the team to share progress, request help or resources, and ask for feedback lets you quickly check in with your players and send them right back to the field to score.

You’ll need to prepare for these huddles a little differently, so here are a few tips to help you better navigate these micro-meetings:

1. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. If you’re running the meeting, you’ll need to be extra prepared. The idea here is to start and finish the meeting in 15 minutes, of which every minute needs to be productive. There’s no room for filler. You must have a clear idea of what will be accomplished, and you must get to the point fast.

2. Establish a protocol. If your meeting is a team check-in, establish a protocol. Let each participant share success or challenges. The idea is everyone is sharing information with the team, and the team is there to cheer on the successes and problem-solve the challenges. Make the meeting structure clear, though, so you don’t get bogged down in anything off-topic or irrelevant.

3. Don't allow chairs. Have a stand-up meeting area with no chairs and raised tables suitable for taking notes. The idea is to get in, work hard and get out.

RELATED: 7 Apps to Help Organize Your Meetings

4. Keep an eye on the clock. Appoint a timekeeper to keep the meeting on track. The focus on time helps you prioritize. If you can only accomplish a few things in each meeting, you’re going to work on the most important.

Sharpening your skills in terms of planning and conducting meetings will make every single member of your staff both more efficient and more engaged. If you’re clear about the purpose for a meeting, and if you directly engage every member of the team, you’ll be astonished at how productive your meetings will become. Whether it’s a monthly upper management event that works on large-scale strategy or whether it’s a sales team huddle with cheers for sales stars and assistance for your rookies, you can build a better, more productive meeting.

Read more articles on leadership.

Photos: iStockphoto

Author, Profit First