How many times have you been in a meeting that you knew right away would be dull and potentially pointless? The ineffectiveness of so many meetings can be remedied simply by revamping the first and last five minutes.
Standup comics live by a performance adage: open strong, close strong. By using the same philosophy when leading a meeting, you will get better interaction and engagement out of your employees.
Try these six tips for your next meeting:
1. Set an example from the start. If you want energy and engagement from your team, you need to embody those qualities while they walk through the conference room doors. We are highly empathetic creatures. Within a tenth of a second, your team gauges and mirrors your mood and energy levels. They look to you for clues about the tone of the meeting. If you have a dark cloud over your head, the energy in the room sinks and the meeting drags. If you are positive and energetic, the meeting will be more lively and productive.
Now, here's where it gets a little tricky.
You too are wired to pick up on the energy levels of others and mirror them back. Don't let any negativity sway you from your assertive state. Stay focused. If you want employees to be friendly, upbeat and engaged, you have to be friendly, upbeat, and engaged. Lead with your body language and tone.
2. Make a connection with everyone in the room. Some people have a habit of starting meetings by reading the agenda. Everyone else tilts their heads down to follow along, not making eye contact and certainly not connecting. The point of meeting face-to-face is to, well, meet face-to-face.
Make it a priority to build and maintain rapport so you can foster collaboration. Reading an agenda shouldn't be your meeting opener. It doesn't have to be a long monologue, just a few sentences about why everyone is together and what you hope to accomplish to set the tone.
3. Remind everyone of your greater mission. Don't get so focused on the minutia of a meeting that you forget to step back and see the big picture. Remind everyone they are working towards a higher purpose and not just clocking meeting minutes. How does this meeting fit into the overall vision? How will this help the company? How will it benefit the team? How will the discussion move things forward? You will get more engagement if everyone sees the bigger picture.
4. Provide action steps. Before everyone scatters to their next appointment, make sure they know their next action steps. Rather than delegating or reading off who is in charge of doing what, ask everyone in the room to say a few words about what they are personally responsible for. This helps make sure everyone is on the same page and gives you an opportunity to listen and observe. Pay attention to what they say and how they say it. Have they "bought in" to the idea? Is their body language congruent with what they are saying? This is your chance to do some preemptive damage control.
You miss out on such valuable information when you dictate the do-to list at the end of the meeting.
5. Acknowledge successes. Recognition is an important part of building a positive culture. It's easy to get caught up with deadlines and think there will be high-fives and group hugs when everything is done, but that rarely happens. Once one item is complete, another is right around the corner.
Recognition and praise should be on your mental checklist for every meeting. You can always find somebody doing something right. Just mention it. Saying, "I'm loving the go-get-'em attitude Janice!" or "Thank you for your thoughtful contributions today Charlie," can really go a long way. It's important to leave the meeting on a positive note.
6. Start where you began. Just as you prepare your opening remarks to create connection among the group, you should end in the same manner. Have an idea of what you're going to say at the end of the meeting. Ideally, your closing remarks would mirror your opening remarks. Reinforce the big picture again.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Sharí Alexander is a communication specialist and founder of Observe Connect Influence, a Los Angeles based training and consulting firm helping leaders increase their influence through educational programs and private coaching. She blogs at Shari-Alexander.com.