Meetings are often the most efficient way to get stuff done, but if they are not carried out effectively, they can be dull, boring, very unproductive and not the slightest bit engaging. Here are just 10 simple ways to inject some engagement and productivity into your meetings.
1. Use physical visualization tools instead of technology
It is scientifically proven that when we write and visualize writings and drawings using tactile tools, it engages the cognitive side of the brain, therefore stimulating better ideas, creativity and problem-solving. This is why actual ‘hands-on’ tools like sticky notes, and even good old pen and notepaper can be far more effective, even if the results of the session are added to a digital system later. It also stops people getting too distracted with the digital tools while you are running the session! We particularly recommend good quality visualization tools are used for any creative, planning or innovation meetings. You may like to consider Myndflo electrostatic notes and whiteboard sheets – they cost a little more than traditional sticky notes, but are a very cost-effective way of introducing some fun and engagement into any workshop experience – you can slide the notes around, they stay flat, and stick to almost any surface.
2. Take regular breaks
Not relevant for shorter meetings, but if your meeting is set to go on for 2 hours or longer, it is important you give the participants a break. This can be a short 10-minute break (or longer for extended meetings) where you encourage participants to get a change of scenery (ideally outside in the fresh air), some water, and a short walk. This will rest the mind, the exercise will stimulate the brain, and nutrition will ensure maximum concentration.
3. Choose your environment carefully
Largely underestimated, the physical environment itself can play a huge role in how creative or productive your meetings are. Proper lighting and enough natural light, good quality ergonomic, practical but comfortable furniture, and stimulating colour schemes, all play a role in how much you are going to get from your people. We recommend high ceilings, neutral colour schemes, plants, and a variety of props e.g. paintings on the wall. In a nutshell, the environment needs to be pleasant, interesting, a clean-design and clutter-free.
4. Proper nutrition
The temptation is to have lots of coffee, biscuits and sugary snacks! Whilst these things are ok in moderation, for longer, more intense or creative meetings you need to ensure the participants have proper nutrition for heavy-lifting brain work! Plenty of water, fruit, Green Tea and things like dried blueberries and walnuts are great brain food for those supercharged meetings.
5. Use a facilitator
If you really want to create immersive engagement from all attendees, a great way to do this is to bring in a meeting facilitator. This can either be a friend or someone you know, or a trained meeting facilitator. It’s important the facilitator is from outside the business, or at least a different department, so they are in no way attached to agenda or topics to be covered. Also, it is important they are respected by the attendees, and ideally are qualified to facilitate. With the right facilitator, meetings can be a huge success!
6. Timekeeping is important
This is very important. Have a start time, allocate time slots to agenda points and have a finish time. Your people are important, their time is important, and badly timed meetings are incredibly expensive! You may want to assign someone the role of ‘timekeeper’ – it is their job to watch the time and keep the facilitator or chairperson aware. Physical timers that sit on the desk are a great way to keep agenda points or speakers on-point and on-time. The timekeeper should also look out for distractions or diversions and be ready to bring the meeting back on track when needed.
7. Have a dynamic agenda
Nobody likes a dull and boring agenda! Include the important points but especially in lengthier or innovation meetings, mix it up with almost random or off-topic ‘fillers.’ These help to maintain interest, and getting the mind off-topic in a deliberate fashion can be a great way to stimulate creativity. The best ideas can often come when you are right ‘out of the zone.’ ‘Fillers’ such as videos, attendee stories or presentations can work well, but be careful not to overdo these and risk delivering a cheesy meeting! Including supporting stories, facts, numbers and pictures to help elaborate on agenda points are also good – just be wary of ‘death by PowerPoint!’
8. Take notes and action points
Seems obvious, but another thing that is often overlooked. It’s vital to keep a log of your meetings, either written, recorded or both. Someone needs to take responsibility for this at the start of the meeting; every meeting should have a ‘minute-taker’ who will be responsible for taking notes and action points, and circulating after the meeting. The minute-taker should also follow up on action points to ensure responsible personnel are held accountable and the work gets done!
9. Have the right people there
Have you ever sat in a meeting and thought “this has absolutely no relevance to me”? Either you enjoy the time to drift into a ‘wide-awake-snooze’ or you rudely interrupt the meeting saying you “have better things to do.” Firstly, make sure those invited to the meeting are relevant. Then during the meeting anyone should be able to easily and discreetly leave if the meeting is no longer relevant to them.
10. Encourage participation
This is a tricky one, as it often involves the management of personalities, including the chairperson! Extroverts will often speak out and dominate meetings, while introverts would rather sit quiet. Yet you want participation from everyone as it’s only as everyone is engaged that the true magic happens. This is another reason to bring in an external facilitator, but either way, make sure everyone has access to writing materials, sticky notes (or better still, static notes which tend to get higher engagement, and lay completely flat) and be given the freedom to stick up their ideas and discussion points on the walls for all to see and debate. This can depend on the format of the meeting, but you want to make sure individual voices are heard, and a great way to do this is to give everyone an individual sticky or static notepad at the start of the session.
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