It would be hard for anyone to say that they have been 100% engaged throughout all the meetings that they have been a part of. However, this is not just an issue with our own attention spans, but rather because generally meetings can drag on or may not even be relevant to you at all.
In fact, a global study by online scheduling platform Doodle found that professionals spend two hours a week in pointless meetings, which was estimated to add up to over $541bn worth of wasted resources in 2019.
To add to this, the average professional spends three hours a week in meetings – making two-thirds of all meetings unnecessary or a waste of time. It’s evidential that more needs to be done to improve engagement in meetings and 2020 should be the time that we make this happen.
To do this, we need to look at the way society has evolved and how this will affect business. The last ten years have been some of the loudest in history, from the changing, shouting face of global politics to the rise of social media platforms that help individuals broadcast their previously ignored opinions.
The power of listening
As is often the case, I expect the pendulum will swing the other way in the next decade, with a premium being attached to active listening and empathy over self-obsession. From discussions we have had with the business community, it’s clear that over the next few years there will have to be a much bigger focus on listening to staff and customers – something that should be reflected in the way we conduct meetings.
The use of presentations in meetings Meetings, whether they are with colleagues, business prospects or even interviews with job candidates, can sometimes require a presentation, and even if you are involving your audience through questions, it can be difficult to ensure everyone is engaged. We’ve all heard of ‘death by PowerPoint’ and this is certainly a reality!
How to keep them focused
A presentation does not need to be something you click through hoping that you manage to keep people interested with office memes or jazzy fonts; a range of software has now been created which keep the audience focused, like the ability to add video and audio.
At Mentimeter we have built provides customers with easy-to-use tools to make presentations interactive, including polls, quizzes, word clouds, multiple-choice questions, and scale ratings, enabling those presenting to gather real-time responses and opinions from the audience.
The fact that everyone now has a smartphone also creates an opportunity for all of the audience to be listened to through their devices, using URLs that have interactive options on them or apps that connect to the presentation. Phones have commonly been seen as a distraction in meetings, but when used in the right way with the right presentation platform, they can increase engagement and provide the presenter with a way of giving everyone a voice.
Make sure everyone is being listened to
There is obviously a massive human element involved with meetings, so it’s essential that all attendees are made to feel included from the beginning. Making sure everyone in the room contributes something in the first few minutes can be achieved by a simple icebreaker and reassures the audience that they’re being listened to. An easy way to achieve this is to start meetings with a quick question and visualising the answers in a word cloud to get the audience engaged and focused.
This is when smartphones are particularly useful as the audience’s answers can be shared anonymously using specific presentation tools, encouraging full inclusion and restricting louder individuals to dominate discussions. Another effective way of promoting inclusion is to split people up into smaller groups and have them work on interactive quiz competitions, like those on Mentimeter.
Add some excitement
This will add some excitement to the meeting, test how much they’ve been listening and inspire them to work collaboratively to try and get the best score. In fact, research into the effects of team meetings on team and organisational success found that constructive meeting interaction processes were related to organisational success 2.5 years after the meeting, reinforcing the benefit of using group discussions.
This also gives more introverted team members the opportunity to get their thoughts across in a less intimidating environment and can trigger a more honest and transparent dialogue during the rest of the meeting. Corporate culture has been built around promoting talkers, with it often being the case that a good talker or presenter is often seen as impressive and demonstrating leadership skills.
But when only the loudest voice in the room is heard the best ideas are often drowned out. Real benefits from meetings can come when everyone feels heard and included, strengthening individual and collective ownership and as a result enabling individual and collective growth.