Managing energy levels in meetings

Group meeting

An important part of meeting management is encouraging participation and consistent contribution. During meetings, participants’ energy levels are likely to fluctuate, especially for meetings longer than one hour. This brings us, as the chair or facilitator, the challenge of managing their energy levels carefully.

Here are ten tips that will help you raise and maintain the positive energy and motivation levels you are seeking in meetings:

  1. Minimise the meeting time
    Use advanced preparation and briefing of participants; starting and finishing the meeting on time. Keeping meetings to one hour is good practice unless you have other issues to consider, such as travel time.
  2. Plan sequence of agenda items
    Aim to bring a balance to the nature of the topic and method of communication e.g. presentation, discussion. Schedule the most important agenda items towards the start of the meeting, when most participants’ energy levels are likely to be at their highest.

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  3. Invite meeting participants at the right time slot
    Ensure that attendees only need attend the meeting for the crucial time where they will be contributing, avoiding wasted ‘down time’. Also consider which time of day will be the best time for participants bearing in mind their natural ‘body clock’, personal caring commitments, working patterns and potential medication needs.
  4. Provide healthy, low carbohydrates refreshments where appropriate
    Consider fresh fruit and water as heavy, sugary foods and caffeine can reduce participants’ energy levels quite quickly, after a few minutes of digestion.
  5. Create an inviting meeting environment
    Choose a room that has natural day light, space to move around and is comfortable, but not too relaxing chairs. Minimise the distractions such as noise, high levels of traffic, or interruptions.
  6. Ensure participants are introduced to one another at the start of the meeting
    This avoids wasted energy being spent by participants, who may wonder whom everyone is and how they fit into the meeting group dynamics.

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  7. Provide regular breaks
    Use breaks in line with the participant energy levels. Normal coffee/tea breaks should be scheduled, but consideration for a quick stretch break of 5 minutes for example will help, as well as any form of movement. If in doubt, ask the meeting participants if they are in need of a break.
  8. Use a variety of group working methods
    Consider using ’round robin’, paired or small group working, along with the use of the flipchart to develop fresh ideas, focus the group, increase contributions and gain recommendations or decisions. Use a pre-agreed ‘car park’ to log participant suggestions, action points and ideas that are important, but potentially detract from the current agenda topic item.
  9. Rotate meeting roles
    Rotate the chair for team meetings, as well as presenters and contributors throughout the meeting for variety and change of voice.
  10. Re-focus the group
    Use summaries or questions such as ‘can anyone summarise where we are?’ If the group are debating an item for too long and the energy levels are low; or change your voice tone to inject new enthusiasm and energy to a topic.

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