3 Hacks for More Engaging Meetings


When was the last time you lead a meeting that engaged and inspired your whole team? How often do you get glazed-eye stares instead? It’s difficult to be on either side of a low-engagement meeting – uninspiring for participants, stressful for meeting leaders, and often unproductive for everyone involved. If time is money, as the saying goes, high-impact meetings aren’t just more enjoyable, but important to the stewardship of public resources. Get leaner, cleaner, more effective meetings with these three simple meeting hacks.

The following three techniques are based on the concept that there are three primary learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. Indiana University – Perdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) maintains a good primer (with video) on the three learning styles. Because each style is likely represented in your meeting, it’s important to include elements that can engage every type of learner. The best meetings are a two-way street of information and idea exchange, so it’s important to keep in mind how each style intakes information and shares input. The good news is that there are myriad ways of interacting with each type. The challenge is that you have your own style, too, and will need to be careful of focusing too much on the methods most comfortable to you. To engage your team in a high-impact meeting, you will need to get outside your comfort zone.

Let’s look at three meeting hacks to engage your whole team:

Let Them Tell You What They Heard
The discussion format meeting is among the most common. It allows auditory learners to listen to the presentation of information, and through discussion, rephrase in their own words what they hear. Lucky for you, this is probably the meeting style with which you are most familiar. But the real challenge is ensuring your auditory learners are on the same page with you. They may listen quietly, and form very different conclusions than what you intended. The surest way to know how they have processed information is to hear it from them. It is important to elicit their understanding of what has been discussed and clarify any details. If you have a team member who seems to be an auditory learner, ask her or him to summarize their key takeaways at the end of a meeting.

Show Your Work
Visualizing information is an important skill. It’s also essential to working with visual learners. Writing meeting notes on a white board, sketching ideas and pictures, and diagramming are all ways to engage the visual learners one your team. Fortunately, you don’t need DaVinci-level drawing skills to communicate visually. Diagramming is a useful communication tool that requires some practice. I keep a copy of The Decision Book by on my desk, and occasionally refer to it for inspiration or loan it out to others. Plan out what you intend to diagram, think through the links, causes, and effects before you begin, then don’t be afraid to erase and edit as you go. Diagramming a complex process may be the best way to engage a visual learner who gets lost in discussion.

Roll Up Your Sleeves
Finally, engaging your team in more physical interactions with information and ideas can yield surprising productivity. This is especially helpful for kinesthetic learners, who thrive on a more tactile experience and often prefer to contribute through demonstration rather than discussion. You can make almost any meeting more interactive with a little creativity. For example, when reviewing a workflow, you can create paper pieces that represent each step in the workflow, and ask participants to arrange their pieces to design their preferred process. Examples of hands-on meeting techniques now abound, thanks to the rise of gamification in many industries. Gamification is the introduction of game elements into non-game contexts. The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) posted a pretty useful introduction to meeting gamification just last year. Depending on your field, you may need to give some creative thought to adapt these techniques to your subject matter and meeting participants, but the benefits can be considerable.

No matter the field in which you work, you are likely to encounter all types of learners. To the extent possible, try implementing techniques that engage each learning style for a high-energy, high impact meeting.

Share your experience in high- or low-impact meetings and your key takeaways in the comment section.

Crystal Winston is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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