How meetings can be made interactive and engaging

Successful, interactive and stimulating meetings can keep employees engaged.

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Many an employee has complained about boring meetings at the workplace. In fact, meetings are rarely looked forward to, especially if they happen very often. If the team leader is verbose, and in the habit of rambling on and on, it can even push employees to call in sick, simply to avoid meetings.

Conducting a meeting successfully requires some skill. And how does one know whether one is good at running meetings? Just look around and observe your team members. Do they all attend the meetings? Do they look forward to the meetings? If the answer is ‘No’, it is time to do the following:

1. Find out what makes the team members tick. Ask them what their idea of a fun or perfect meeting is. You may be surprised by the varied responses. Some team members may want specific snacks to be served during the meeting, or some may want the meeting to be held at a different venue, other than the office. Some may even suggest doing away with physical meetings altogether, opting instead for e-mail interactions alone. If not all, some of the feedback or suggestions can be considered for implementation.

2. Relax, and ensure that everyone else is also at ease inside the meeting room. The best way to do this is by sharing a joke or some interesting anecdote, maybe about your own self. It makes everyone laugh and become comfortable. Once all the participants are comfortable, it becomes easy for people to talk, express and share their opinions.

3. Begin the meeting by asking each one to draw something. Choose a theme and ask everyone to draw what comes to mind. Set a time limit and then ask the participants to hold up their creations for everyone to see. The results can be interesting, funny and even bizarre. It is a fun way to relax and feel at ease, which in turn makes it easy for everyone to communicate interact and engage.

4. Begin by setting a time limit for the meeting, and convey the fact that you intend to wind up the meeting on time. Let those attending know exactly when the meeting will end. Ask if there are people who need to leave before the meeting concludes, to fulfil some other commitment or keep an appointment. If there are, allow them to do so. This will ensure that while they are present in the meeting, they will be all ears, instead of constantly worrying about the other ‘commitment’.

5. Choose a person to note down all the important points being discussed. Let that person know that the minutes of the meeting should be documented and circulated to everyone post the meeting. This is essential, especially when there are actions to be taken, and specific people are assigned duties and responsibilities.

6. Avoid monologues. Let the team members speak, exchange and share ideas. Share the achievements—individual as well as team—so that there is reason for everyone to feel proud, wanted and valuable. Appreciate good work. This will only motivate the team members.

7. Ask each team member to share something good about the person sitting next to them. This makes the meetings interactive and interesting.

8. Try to assign a task or work to each person before, during and after the meeting. Before the meeting, some team members can be told to prepare points on certain topics or issues that need to be discussed. This will give an opportunity to those team members to pore over the issue, weigh all perspectives and lead the discussion on that topic in the meeting. This will also ensure that more or less everyone present in the meeting is prepared and looking forward to attending the meeting.

During the meeting, certain people can be made responsible for taking certain actions or implementing something, as per the results of the discussion.

A couple of people can be assigned the job of following up on the actions suggested, after the meeting, and creating a report.

9. Do not always hold the meeting in the conference room or the place fixed for meetings in the office. Once in a while, have the meeting on the terrace or in the garden or even at a coffee shop at a time when it is less crowded.

10. Ensure that too much is not packed into a single meeting. If there are too many topics to cover, you will have to time yourself, and ensure that you adhere to the time set for each topic or person.

11. If the discussion appears to be leading away from the primary purpose of the meeting, remind everyone of the reason for the meeting and get back to the main subject. A team leader should know how to interrupt someone politely and bring the meeting back on track.

It can be a challenge to ensure that team members feel they are heard, and at the same time, interrupt them if they seem to be diverging from the main subject. Meetings are an opportunity for team members to express their opinions and also feel heard and valued. So, interrupting someone who has the tendency to get carried away can be tricky. It has to be done cautiously without hurting the feelings of that person. Sometimes, even a quick glance at the watch can do the trick.

Remember to give everyone an opportunity to speak. When everyone gets to speak, without any interruption or fear of being assessed, criticised or ridiculed, the speakers tend to speak intelligently.

Meetings are meant to bring team members together and closer. They should therefore be interactive and engaging. After all, engaged employees are the backbone of all organisations.

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