The competence and willingness of participants to contribute to your meeting dynamically is what determines its success. But what determines whether your participants will be engaged? Two factors come to mind:
Preparation: Your participants need to be primed with knowledge, insights, and experience around the topic being discussed in order to contribute in a way that is meaningful. If the beginning of the meeting is spent educating the group or worse bringing participants “up to speed” your meeting is doomed.
Posture: If your participants are not invested emotionally in the meeting’s topic, purpose, or outcome, they won’t participate at a high level. Is the topic being discussed interesting? Is it important to them, or just you? Do your participants feel like they’re attending because they have a unique gift to offer, or simply because it’s their job?
What’s fascinating is both preparation and posture are largely developed before the meeting even begins.
This is why the meeting invitation is the key to building engagement. Instead of the usual thoughtless invite that often feels like a subpoena, here are two suggestions to make your invite significantly more effective.
1. Tell your participants what’s at stake in your meeting.
Why does this meeting matter? People want to feel like the session is going to be worthy of the heart and soul they bring to work each day. Is it? Leadership expert Patrick Lencioni tells us that conflict and drama are what get people excited. Why is this meeting the beginning of something big for the organization? What would happen if the wrong decision was made? Is there a competitive threat looming that makes this meeting urgent? How can you use the invitation to authentically frame the meeting in a way that gets people to care?
2. Tell your participants why you picked them.
People want to be picked. What type of specific unique skill, perspective, or experience makes each of your participants uniquely suited for this meeting? Use the invitation as an opportunity to acknowledge them for that. Tom Kelly of IDEO points us to ten different faces of innovation. What if you asked someone to prepare from the perspective of the experimenter? The hurdler? How might that change the posture from which participants approach your meeting?
If we can change the way our attendees show up in our meetings, we can transform the work that happens inside of them. By inviting people powerfully and purposefully we can make our meetings once again feel like special events, and produce the type of breakthroughs that are only possible through creative collaboration.
Over To You
How do you make meetings more effective?
What are your techniques for preparing attendees?