August 23, 2017 | By

The 4 Worst Ways to Start a Meeting (And How to Do it Better)

So, your meeting is starting and everyone you invited is present. You have a few seconds to get the meeting rolling before people drift off into la la land. You decide to kick things off with a joke, and it falls flat. You lose your place, and the feeling of failure is now overpowering, and the meeting is as good as over. Better start brushing up that resume…

Okay, it’s not usually THAT bad. But we know hosting meetings can be stressful, and there’s a lot of opportunity to lose your audience right off the bat. So to help you avoid the drama and run a meeting right, let’s review some of the worst follies when starting a meeting (and what to do instead).

Not Starting on Time

If you start your meeting late, not only do you come across as not valuing your team’s time, you’re making the meeting less productive. So if you know you’re leading a meeting, pad your schedule a bit—make sure any calls or meetings before yours ends at least 15-minutes prior to your start time so you can prepare yourself mentally, grab a coffee, get to the conference room, and get things set up. That may sound like a lot of time, but there’s more difficulty in the room setup than you might expect. According to a recent survey we conducted, there are a whole slew of obstacles that people regularly encounter when running a meeting from a conference room. When sales people want to use a conference room for a demo, they run into problems  connecting to the internet, getting running on the video system running, even connecting to audio! Here are the top responses we heard from sales team members:


Not Articulating What the Meeting is About

No one likes incoherent, rambling meetings. In fact, a study by Opinion Research USA found that it topped the list of employees’ meeting pet peeves. So how do you avoid this? When kicking off the meeting, verbally solidify two things: the objective of the meeting, and the desired outcomes. So, for instance, if you’re having a brainstorming session, you’d begin with something along the lines of, “We need five actionable ideas to increase sales this quarter.” This grabs everyone’s attention from the start, and keeps everyone focused on the same goal.

Not Getting Everyone Involved Early

If you spend more than five minutes at the start of a meeting droning on—no matter how interesting you think you’re being—you’re going to lose people’s attention. A number of different studies have shown that a team’s collective intelligence is predicted by how equally team members participate. So make sure everyone contributes to the meeting. According to Liane Davey in the Harvard Business Review, you can “ask that participants refrain from simply agreeing with one another” by saying something like, I’m looking for different perspectives and new ways of thinking.” You can even start out by asking participants questions, like “What would you consider a successful outcome of this meeting.” The earlier you get people involved, the better.

Not Defining Roles and Ownership

Your meeting may have agenda items that are covered by different people or parts of the business. If so, be upfront with everyone not only on the purpose of that item, but who exactly owns it. Be sure to make it crystal clear by saying something like, “Brian owns this decision, so I’m going to have him end the discussion when he feels like he has everything he needs.” A great way to drive that feeling of ownership among anyone who isn’t in the room is to ask people to turn on their webcam and video conference when you’re discussing something they are responsible for. Making eye contact with you – or the whole group – will drive that feeling of ownership and a stronger connection to the task.