When you’re in charge of leading the next company check-in, client introduction call or follow-up meeting, just figuring out how to open a meeting can be stressful! To get your next meeting set up for success, there are two things you need to do:
Rather than “winging it” at your next meeting, follow these tried-and-true steps for a successful meeting opening.
Did you know that 60% of workers do more prep for in-person meetings than virtual ones? Although common, this is a mistake! No matter the type of meeting, preparation is the key to success. Follow these tips to begin your meeting effectively.
As the meeting facilitator, you need to understand the who, what, and why.
Defining these clearly will help get your meeting off to a great start and give you a clear roadmap to follow for an effective meeting, from start to finish.
For a successful meeting, get everyone on the same page—literally!—before the meeting starts. Share an agenda with the meeting participants, ideally at least a week in advance.
An agenda gives a clear purpose and clear objectives to your meeting so that you can keep meetings productive. Rather than having to explain everything in person, you can simply give a quick recap and dive in.
First impressions matter with business meetings as well as introductions. If you’ve done your prep work, starting your meeting successfully should be simple.
Get your meeting off to a great start by outlining clear objectives, adhering to the meeting time, and finding ways to empower everyone to contribute.
As the meeting facilitator, value everyone’s time and get started promptly. Of course, it’s inevitable that some people may be late, but simply acknowledge a short buffer zone and then proceed with your planned agenda. After all, no one likes sitting around making small talk for ten minutes while waiting for a meeting to get underway.
You might consider saying something like,
“Hi everyone, welcome! We’ll give a minute or two for everyone to arrive and then dive in.”
This is especially important for virtual meetings. Take a minute to ensure everyone’s microphones and audio is working (and cameras, if needed) to prevent interruptions later.
This is a great thing to do while you’re waiting for everyone to arrive. You might say something like,
“Can everyone hear me okay? I’ve just shared my screen as well, let me know if you can’t see it.”
“Since this is going to be a brainstorming meeting, let’s make sure everyone can hear everyone before we start. Can everyone go around and quickly say your name for a quick sound check?”
If any team members’ camera or audio isn’t working, this gives them time to remedy it before getting too far into the meeting. During this time, you should also keep an eye on the “waiting room” or “lobby” of your video conference and be sure to admit any participants who get stuck in there.
Once you’ve welcomed everyone, you should take a minute to review the meeting objectives and action plan. By doing so, you communicate to your participants that you value their time and perspectives (by keeping the meeting focused). During this time, you should also review any ground rules to keep the meeting on track.
You might say something like,
“Let’s go ahead and get started. As a reminder, our goals for this meeting are to discuss the three software options we have and come to a final decision about which to move forward with.”
A few tips to do this effectively:
In some meetings, it can be helpful to define roles, such as decision-makers and note-takers so each team member knows what’s expected of them and how to contribute. This can be informal, and it can be done at the start of the meeting or in advance.
You might say something like,
“As we work through these action items today, Joe is going to take minutes for us and share them later, and Sarah is going to present the different options we’re choosing between.”
Many people are afraid of coming across as bossy, but a great discussion is aided by someone taking the lead, guiding the conversation, and keeping everyone on track.
Finally, dive into your agenda items. You should plan this transition in advance so you’re not stuck in the moment trying to energize the room.
If you’ve developed a good agenda, you may want to simply jump into the first action item. Other ideas:
Whatever it is, be sure it adds value by making progress on your objectives. In addition, ensure that your transition is both brief and suited for the formality and purpose of the meeting. You don’t want to play a lighthearted icebreaker at an important stakeholder meeting!
To recap, here’s the five steps to a great meeting opening:
All of the above should take no more than 5-10 minutes, depending on how long your meeting is. Even though the beginning of your meeting should be brief, a well-planned and thoughtful meeting start will set the tone for a successful and productive meeting.