Clients regularly tell us that they have unsatisfactory meetings where the participants are not really engaged. No matter whether a meeting is face-to-face or virtual via phone or video, you need the engagement of participants to make it effective. Therefore, let’s focus on how you can boost that engagement and create focus for your meetings.

The magic word is: “check-in”.

If this sounds like boarding a plane, that’s indeed not a bad metaphor.

At the start of every meeting the host makes a quick round of all participants, checking in with questions like these:

  1. How are you today? (How do you feel today?)
  2. What is most important for you to get out of this meeting?
  3. What you need to switch off from to be fully present?

You can use permutations to question 1 by adding focus areas like: “body and mind”, “heart and mind”, or even ”body and soul”. That depends on the context and the quality of relationship you have with the people participating.

The first question encourages people to express how they feel when they arrive in a meeting and makes you aware of their state of mind which can help you and others very much to understand their reactions to subjects as they come up in the meeting.
The second question creates the focus and encourages people to think and share what they really want out of this meeting. That feedback on their expectations helps you facilitate discussions to meet the most common ones.
The third question helps the participants to switch off from other things buzzing through their minds and really focus their attention on your meeting.

In a round of 10 people (fewer in a virtual setting) this should not take more than five minutes. So some pace is required but still with enough time for people to respond well to the three questions.

In our experience this little ritual helps very much to create more engagement and focus in a meeting, especially in a virtual meeting. The time invested pays back easily!

“Check-out” is equally valuable

In addition to the check-in ritual, we also recommend doing a check-out at the end of each meeting. This helps the participants review their expectations, contributions and commitments. Two points are valuable to ask about: emotions of participants, and intended actions.
The latter is easy, and should be the last question: “what actions are you taking away from this meeting?”.
The emotional check might depend on how the meeting went. For a straightforward meeting: “how do you feel as you leave us?”. For one where it did not run well: “what was good in how we ran the meeting, and where can we improve?”. And after intense, exhausting meetings it can be useful to ask “what is your energy level now that we are finished?”

We are sure you can think of more combinations for these questions. Our simple recommendation is that you try it out and see what works best for you and in your context.

If you like to explore more about these and other simple rituals for effective meetings please get in touch  – we are happy to discuss the subject in more detail. Or you can leave a comment below.