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How to Keep People Engaged in Project Meetings

By ILX Team | 17 August 2017

Meetings are a necessary evil. There are always team members that hate being pulled away from their work. Others may not even turn up on time. It’s hard to get people engaged in the first place. It only gets worse when the meeting drags on. Here are five tips to make the most of your meetings and keep stakeholders engaged throughout.

  1. Keep an agenda

Keep a meeting agenda so everyone knows the value of the meeting and what to expect. Without one, the meeting can look meaningless and meandering. People will already be distracted with work and even an important meeting can be a huge interruption. Make sure you get off on the right foot with a clear agenda.

An agenda can help settle a lot of nerves, but only if you avoid going over time. Appoint a time-keeper if you can’t do it while also chairing and taking notes.

  1. Cancel useless meetings

It’s useful to make meetings a standing point on the calendar. If not, they can be much harder to book when you need them. But don’t be afraid to cancel one of these regular meetings if there’s nothing to talk about. This sounds obvious, but a meeting should be valuable and not just a box-ticking exercise.

If you have some simple questions or instructions, think about alternatives to meetings. It depends on the company culture, but use less disruptive forms of communication, like emails, whenever possible.

  1. Stay punctual

If you don’t start on time, you won’t end on time. People who are already preoccupied with work will feel even less engaged. By the time the meeting has started, their minds will be elsewhere. They may be weary at this point, or feel their time is less valued than the person they’re waiting for.

The solution is to start your meeting even if some are absent. You can catch them up later and work through parts of the agenda that don’t require them in the meantime. During this time, you should also try contacting whoever’s late for an ETA. For your part, make sure that you’re always on time.

  1. Move around and take breaks

When a meeting drags on, concentration, creativity and energy all drop. People will be trying to run the clock down until they can get back to work or go home. This is especially true when not everyone in the meeting is actively participating. It’s best to read the room and break if the meeting has stalled, but keep it going if it’s on a roll.

A lot of agile companies like stand-up meetings. These work best when you can limit them to around 15 minutes. For longer meetings, you can rearrange groups after breaks. This doubles as informal teambuilding while keeping everyone active and engaged. If the room is big enough, you can also move people around the room to observe and add to charts.

  1. Use toys

Yes, for meetings with other adults. Corporate trainers and business consultants Jennifer V. Miller and Gerry Lewis both advocate using toys in meetings. That’s because concentration slip is one of the biggest and most common problems in meetings. Aim for cheap toys that don’t require a lot of mental concentration, make noise or distract others.

Even those who scoff at the idea at first tend to use the toys during long meetings. If you’re considering this idea, remember the importance of office culture. Some project teams would just laugh at them and remind you that you don’t work at Google. This is another case of knowing the company and being able to read the room.

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