Bringing a breath of fresh air to meetings

Meetings are an almost daily occurrence in the everyday life of a project manager and everyone involved in projects. You probably know it too, you are constantly sitting in meetings in which either something is discussed, something is decided, something is presented or something is worked out. Some meetings are purposeful, others are lengthy and poorly organized. But you've resigned yourself to spending a lot of your time sitting down with all kinds of people and groups in person or digitally. Sometimes half an hour, sometimes a whole day. That's why it's worth taking up the topic once more and looking at how you can bring a bit of fresh air into this gray daily meeting routine.
A man presents in front of a screen while several seated people listen at a table. There are cookies and drinks on the table.

Meeting or not?

If you want to avoid your meeting becoming tough and time-consuming, start by thinking about whether you need a meeting at all. A face-to-face meeting is not always the only or best way to get a decision or convey information. Besides avoiding meetings in general, the second possible strategy is to shorten meetings in terms of time. There are numerous methods to make a meeting as short and as efficient as possible. But here today, we'll focus on the third strategy. Let's say you need a meeting. Okay, but then make it so exciting and lively that it flies by and everyone is fired up! And let's be honest, you know how it is when you're sitting in a meeting, the topic actually interests you or at least should interest you, and then slowly but surely your eyes fall shut, simply because your ability to concentrate and grasp things diminishes after a while or you're no longer even asked and therefore drift off.

Strategies for better meetings

But how can you do it better? First, prepare everything as usual, thematically and in terms of the process. But at the same time, think about how you can make sure that no one falls asleep or struggles to concentrate during the meeting. Keep in mind that most people start to drift off in their thoughts after about a quarter of an hour. So use targeted methods that keep everyone engaged and hold their attention. This is especially true for presentations where you yourself are imparting a lot of information and everyone else has to primarily listen.
Tip 1: A few calories improve attention. During a long meeting, cookies, a cup of coffee, some fruit or chocolate can bring back your ability to concentrate. Those present perceive these nibbles or drinks as a reward and appreciation, and are more refreshed afterwards. Combine this with tip 2: micro-breaks. Take a tiny break in your presentation every 40 to 45 minutes or so. Just a few minutes, maybe five. Give everyone a chance to take a few steps, move around, take a bathroom break, or just grab a coffee or cookie. While you're at it, open the windows because fresh air is good for circulation and concentration.

Just not monotonous and boring

The following tips are aimed at actively engaging meeting participants. The best way to get everyone thinking and mentally engaged is to let them all participate. This can be accomplished, for example, with a small group activity or group exercise. Ideally, come up with something that involves the audience standing in small groups on a flip chart or whiteboard to brainstorm on a particular topic.
In general, using a flip chart, whiteboard, bulletin board or similar is a good idea to add variety to the monotonous Power Point presentation. It is also great to work with cards or Post-Its, because then the visual component is joined by the tactile component, which is very good for comprehension and remembering the content. Hearing and seeing and additionally touching something improves the chances that it will stay in our memory.
It sounds a bit unusual, but a quiz or a game in between can be excellent ways to keep your eyelids from slamming shut and bring some movement into the meeting. Games are especially useful when you need to present dry numbers. Don't be afraid to reward your fellow participants for a correct answer with a piece of candy or a cookie. The person whose guess is closest to the correct number gets a licorice snail. Childish? Maybe a little, but it often works wonders and actually encourages many people to cooperate and think along when their ambition is seized - even if it's just for a gummy bear. Everyone likes to win. And don't worry about your employees not taking you seriously if you reach into the animation bag of tricks every now and then. The vast majority of people absolutely welcome a little variety in their workday, and tricks like these even help them remember what they've discussed better. The only downside to this is that once you've started holding more exciting meetings, you can't fall back into old patterns and start having boring meetings again. Once you were active and creative, you have to serve the expectations placed on you from now on permanently.

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Author: IAPM internal 
Keywords: Project management, Meetings, Tipps

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