Wake Them Up! Raising Energy in Meetings


Low energy, boring, waste of time. What do these 3 words conjure up for you? Likely most of you answered – meetings! What if we could get all of our meetings off to a positive, high-energy, anything but boring start? Today, we’ll focus on the benefits of perking your group up right from the start for your daily/weekly recurring team meetings. Our focus will be on quick and easy ways to do this for groups of 4-15 people.

The Problem

hangingPeople attend meetings reluctantly often because they are fully engaged and overwhelmed with other projects. The last thing they want to do is interrupt their productive time focused on a more urgent issue so they can attend a boring, unproductive meeting. They also may be reluctant to deal with a meeting that always runs the same way and rarely honors what they need at that moment to be at their productive best.Or, it might be their fifth meeting of the day.

The Benefits of Solving Low-Energy Meetings

If your team members are able to switch their brains quickly from the work they came from before the meeting to the current meeting topics, this will help ensure that really good ideas and solutions surface for the topics at hand. You want people to be at their best for the meeting. The more positive people are, the more productive and engaged they are. This is a fact that neuroscientists have measured. So what if you as the leader (or as a participant) could influence the start of your meeevaluationstings to move from a low energy, low productivity to a high energy productivity? The result would be that you’d spend less time in the meeting, people would volunteer for action items more readily, and it would give a boost to everyone’s energy for the rest of their workday. The key to doing this is to connect people to each other as competent, fun and interesting human beings.

How to Solve This Problem

I know I said in an earlier blog “Just Say No to  Icebreakers”, but in this blog I  give what might seem like a contradictory suggestion to this. l  am actually going to suggest using icebreakers for the important reason of connecting people to both the purpose, content and people of the meeting. Below I offer six ways to do this. Three are rather simple ways and three are less simple.  Some might appear risky to you and them.  You need to tell your team why you are doing this! That will make the difference between willing participants and unwilling ones.  In most cases, you are doing this to refire their brains, to make them engage their brains with the content and their fellow participants in a more interesting way, and to make the meeting more productive.  You can always ask them, “Are you willing to try something for five minutes which will make this meeting and you more productive?”

Easy “Refire” the Brain Techniques

1. Going Well – Ask everyone to go around the table and share one thing that is going well in their lives or at work. Give them about 30 seconds each. This is a quick way to raise brain serotonin levels by focusing on something positive and taking their minds away from the problem they were just solving. Source: Reevaluation Counselling/ Appreciative Inquiry/ Interpersonal NeuroBiology/ Emotional Freedom Technique.

2. Mind Reader – Each participant tries to read someone else’s mind by asking yes or no questions. If their fellow participant answers yes, you keep asking them questions. If they answer no, you move on to someone else in the meeting. Example: “Do you love playing sports?” – “Yes”. “Do you love playing soccer?” – “Yes”. “Do you love playing goalie?” – “No”. Move on to the next person. Don’t limit the topics. Encourage them to ask about really different topics so you get laughter going. Again, this will create a positive emotional state for  them and ensure a more productive jump-starting of the brain on challenging topics.  Source: Quick Meeting Openers for Busy Managers.

picture-this3. Metaphoric Pictures – Display postcards from different places or photos of many different scenes on the table. Ask people to choose one at random and share on one of these questions: How does this picture remind you of something we do well as a team? Or, how does this picture tell us what’s going on with a current project or one of our meeting topics? Or, what about this picture lets us know what you need from us to be productive in this meeting? Source: Adapted from  many techniques including “Picture This”,  photographs from InnovativeResources.org.

More Difficult

1. Index Card Questions – Each person gets one index card and a pen. Ask them to write one question they would like answered by the others about one of the meeting topics or about other team members. Have people form teams of 3 people and everybody attempts to answers the 3 questions that have been written by the people in the group. Change groups once or twice. If you focus on questions around the meeting topics, it helps people prepare themselves mentally for the topics at hand in a kinesthetic, engaging way. If you focus on more personal questions, it can help people get to know each other, laugh, and raise the positive emotional state of everyone in the room. Source: Adapted from Quick Meeting Openers for Busy Managers.

2. Fun Focused Conversation – Let people know that you are going to ask them a series of questions for the next 5 minutes. Get everyone to answer the first question so that all voices are heard early in the meeting. After that, take 1-3 answers per question. 1) How many minutes have you spent in meetings this week? 2) How many of those minutes have you found to be a good use of your time? 3) What would you need in this meeting to make it go much better than most of your meetings this week? 4) Of these suggestions, given the time we have today, which one shall we implement? Source: Adapted from the ToP Focused Conversation Method.

3. Brain Gym – This one might feel very risky. But if you watch this video and explain the benefits of this series of movements, you can usually get almost anyone to do it. These simple exercises integrate the left and right brain and whole body system for increased productivity, enhanced learning and greater well being.  It helps to have fun, upbeat music to do it. Source: Adapted from Brain Gym International / Educational Kinesiology / Dr. Carla Hannaford.




Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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