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Liven up a boring meeting

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in Workplace Communication

You are in charge of a committee at work that no one seems to care about. Meeting attendance is lackluster, and those who do come rarely speak up. How can you make people feel more engaged?

Schedule the meeting less frequently.
Don’t meet monthly simply because you think you should. Is there real work to do? Is the purpose of your meeting to interact and solve problems? If the purpose is mainly to convey information, could you send it by e-mail instead?

Meet for an unusual amount of time.
Consider holding a 22-minute meeting. The odd time will grab attention and sound more manageable.

Open up the agenda.
Ask attendees to suggest agenda items in advance that interest them. If you don’t see enough pressing items on the list, cancel the meeting.

Stand up.
One admin says her meetings stay lively because “we are not sitting around a table; we’re all standing up and moving around so it keeps us energized.”

Insist that everyone streamline reports.
Cover only actionable items that involve the entire group.

Invite guest speakers.
Ask one of your co-workers to talk, as an “outsider,” about your committee’s efforts. Or ask someone from your industry association to talk about major trends.

Use the power of food.
Food makes people feel welcome, builds camaraderie and sustains positive energy levels. Be considerate when planning the menu. Example: Offer fruit and yogurt in addition to doughnuts.

Turn over the reins. Let attendees take turns leading the meeting, creating the agenda and materials, and introducing topics. You’ll inspire greater participation. And, as another admin points out, “It also may lead to a deeper appreciation for what it is like to head the meeting and for the frustrations involved in having no responses back from colleagues.”

Ask attendees how it went.
At the end of the meeting, obtain immediate feedback. You could also ask: “Is there a better way to structure the meeting?” Use their answers to plan future meetings.

Put Slinkies, Legos and other gizmos in people’s hands. Toys enhance creativity by allowing people to involve their bodies. The more involved people are, the more they learn, interact and retain.

Never miss an opportunity to say, “Good thought,” when a participant contributes. Doing so creates a supportive climate where members open up. Even off-target input can be rewarded with a “thanks” or “OK.”

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