Boosting meeting engagement can be a challenge.
Meetings are often viewed as boring or a waste of time. They can even be breeding grounds for contentious dynamics as co-workers fight to stand out from the crowd. While meetings can be helpful for collaboration, excessive, back-to-back sessions can leave people feeling micro-managed. This slows productivity to a halt and may stunt the growth of high-performers who, if given more white space, would otherwise thrive.
Everyone has heard the generic advice for effective meetings:
- Don’t over-schedule. No one wants to spend six hours a week in meetings.
- Only schedule a meeting when it is truly necessary.
- Schedule shorter meetings.
This advice, albeit obvious, is still good. But why not take things a step further?
Infuse your meetings with wit and creativity and take advantage of psychologically proven ways to foster engagement.
When you implement these tips, your colleagues may just start looking forward to meetings as a workplace ritual.
How to Change Up Your Routine and Boost Meeting Engagement
1. Ditch the Table
Meetings are traditionally held in uninspired, neutral-toned rooms with a large table and chairs in the middle. Square and rectangular tables subconsciously reinforce workplace hierarchy. When your aim is collaboration, putting everyone on equal footing is important. If collaboration is your goal, include a circular table in your meeting space.
Better yet, ditch the table completely. Arrange chairs in a circle, facing inward. Removing the table encourages open communication between colleagues and lightens up the formal atmosphere. If you need to distribute handouts or refer to charts during the meeting, consider alternative ways of displaying them: hang them on the walls around the room to encourage movement and spontaneous dialogue, for example.
To energize meetings, you can also break up longer meetings with short, standing breaks. Research suggests that standing up while working increases job performance. Encourage your colleagues to get up and move their bodies. Lead the room in some quick stretches or unintimidating yoga poses before getting back to work.
2. Change Your Venue
Speaking of that uninspired, bland meeting room: why not ditch it altogether? Getting out of the office does wonders for everyone. Holding meetings at unconventional locations can foster excitement about a quick trip out of the office. Our ability to focus is directly linked to the novelty of the experience. Changing your meeting routine will promote focus and engagement among your co-workers. Consider other alternative locations as well, like coffee shops, downtown stress, or a park.
3. Create Chill Vibes
Encourage your colleagues to de-stress by providing small, unobtrusive toys like stress balls and fidget spinners. Recent research into “fidget widgets” suggests that those who utilize them are better able to focus on their primary task. People who decompress, even for just a few minutes, with something creative and completely unrelated to their jobs are more productive in the long run. The theory is that as we become used to our environments, we grow complacent, and any stimuli introduced to that environment jolts us out of complacency to refocus our minds.
4. Introduce Playfulness
Shake things up by introducing playful elements into your meetings. Encourage punctuality by having all tardy colleagues sing a short song upon entering the room, for instance.
Humor breeds an informal atmosphere. Engaging in friendly competition and playfulness helps those in attendance feel a sense of camaraderie and leads to a more productive, collaborative space.
At Brivo, a security management firm, they have a “No Rehash” policy. Each time a colleague revisits a topic already covered in that meeting, his co-workers raise paddles with “no rehash” written on them, signaling to the colleague that it is time to wrap up their point.
5. Get Quiet
Encourage silence in your meetings. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but short bits of silence can be a boon to meeting productivity. We tend to equate collaboration with chatty dialogue, but silence can be an equally powerful tool. People will offer better solutions when given time to think critically about the problem. Give your colleagues the space to come up with those solutions. Don’t fill it with endless noise or useless PowerPoint slides.
Meetings don’t have to be boring. When done well, meetings are tremendous tools for collaboration and problem-solving. Spice up your weekly meeting by changing the venue. Introduce fun and games (literally). Consider the addition of strategic silence and breaks. Not only will your colleagues be grateful for change, they may start looking forward to your next meeting.