Dear Meeting Guru,

"How do I keep people interested? How much company talk can they handle and how can I tell when enough is enough?"


Blessed Meeter,

With the number of meetings that most of us attend, keeping participants interested in what you have to say can be a major challenge. The first thing you have to do is introduce some variety into your meeting. Don’t be afraid to break away from the traditional meeting format and try something fun – attendees will appreciate the change to their routine and will be more likely to pay attention if they’re enjoying themselves! Here are a couple of ideas to get you thinking.

Try introducing each agenda item with a humorous quote or a comic strip. It will trigger the audience’s interest in what you have to say.
If your meeting objective is to introduce new information, let the group know that there will be a quiz on the content you're going to present. At the end of your presentation, ask the group questions about the content you've just presented. Whoever provides the correct answer first receives a prize. Not only will this generate some excitement, but you can guarantee that fewer people will be daydreaming during your presentation!
During a discussion or brainstorming session, try this simple game involving a soft, small ball. Begin by throwing the ball to a participant. That person must comment on the subject at hand and then throw it to another participant. Each time the ball is thrown around the room, another comment or suggestion is made. This encourages every participant to contribute to the meeting discussion.

Mixing up the meeting’s format should help keep participants on their toes. But if you sense that interest is waning, schedule a ten-minute break, or suggest you wrap up and continue the session later in the week. It should be pretty easy to gauge if the audience is losing interest – stifled yawns, wandering gazes and random chatter are all good clues. Remember – most people need a ten-minute break every 50 minutes, so try to incorporate that into your meeting. If you have a lot of detailed information to wade through, try to insert stories, analogies and guest speakers into your presentation. Any change of pace will help revive the audience’s interest.

If you want people to fully participate in meetings, it’s worth putting some extra time and effort into your planning. Participants who daydream or doze off during meetings make the entire session unproductive. As the wise philosopher Confucius said "Being fond of courage while detesting poverty will lead men to unruly behavior. Excessive detestation of men who are not benevolent will provoke them to unruly behavior." So make sure your meeting "troops" are kept happy or you may be stuck with an uprising on your hands!

Until next time… may good meeting karma always be with you.



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