Rotate moderators. Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you must chair every meeting. Give others a chance to sit at the head of the table and lead the discussion. Work with them to prepare agendas and distribute them ahead of time.
Resist routines. Don’t let staffers sit in the same seats every week or always plant themselves next to their best buddies. Your goal is to prevent attendees from falling into “safe” habits that make the meetings feel stale. Other tips: Rearrange the chairs to experiment with different configurations (U-shape, circle, classroom style). Or choose different places to meet, such as a park or a field office, so the group doesn’t get used to seeing the same four walls every week.
Hold contests. Pose questions to the group and give rewards to those who know the correct answers. Example: An auto-parts supplier begins every staff meeting with a Trivial Pursuit®-type game in which the “host” asks a randomly selected “contestant”10 questions based on corporate news, personnel changes and facts from last week’s meeting. Players receive prizes for each question they get right.
Appeal to the senses. The best way to keep an audience’s attention is to activate their senses. How? Use audiovisual aides (from showing videos to playing motivational cassette tapes), pass around exhibits for all to see (such as samples of a new product or the camera-ready layout of your company’s new brochure) or provide unusual snacks. One manager tells us he diffuses a different scent in the room each week, and participants guess what they’re smelling. “It’s strange, but it works,” he says. “Whether it’s garlic or some perfume, they never know what to expect when they enter the room.”