People Dozing in Your Meetings? 7 Ways to Get Their Attention


There are some interesting statistics about meetings that I’ve been coming across while creating two new simpler levels of Meetings that Rock online course that are going to be launched in the next few months. For example, one statistic said that 91% admit to daydreaming in meetings and 39% admit to dozing off!

Here is what the article said:

“The average employee in America spends 37% of their time attending meetings. Other studies show that managers attend an average of 60 meetings each month. And although a study commissioned by Verizon and conducted by Meetings in America (see last resource below) revealed that 39% of employees admit to dozing off during meetings, a whopping 92% of those surveyed suggested that “successful meetings may be a contributing factor for employee job satisfaction.”

Seven easy ways to ensure your people do not doze or daydream in those 60 meetings per month!

Well that’s a lot of money to pay for people to sleep and daydream. So we’re going to give you the very easy, practical, no-preparation needed ways to ensure people do not doze off in your meetings. There are seven things. You may have seen my social media posts on the seven ways to make you the smartest person in the meeting (re-referenced below but this instead is seven things to make sure everybody is smarter in your meetings).

1. Put a plant, pipe cleaners and/or a beautiful cloth in the middle of the meeting table for visual and kinesthetic learners

This first tip is just to have something fun and beautiful for people to look at and do in the middle of your meeting table. Our suggestion is a plant that you borrow from the hallway or receptionist’s desk! Pipe cleaners are really cheap if you go to a craft store or a big all-purpose store. People could bring in their favorite cloth from a country that they have visited. There are so many beautiful pieces of material at fabric shops that you can get for low cost. Why do this? Kinesthetic and visual learners will do much better if they can think and listen with their eyes and hands.

2. Take 3 minutes for everyone to “check-in” on something positive going on for each of them.
The next step is to make sure that you have everyone start off on a positive note. A sure fire way to do this is to have people report on something that’s going well in their life or in their work. Everybody gets to participate and they always come up with something. You should however mention it is fine to pass if they don’t want to offer anything that day. Make a practice of this in every meeting. It never fails to get people into a positive emotional state. Neuroscience tells us that learning and productivity go up in proportion to how positive you feel. Also, once people around you are feeling positive, you pick up on that positivity. Finally,as Les Brown says, your smile will give you a positive countenance that will make people feel comfortable around you.

3. After each topic, take a “temperature check”, i.e., What is your gut reaction now to this topic?
Our third tip is to make sure that after every topic, you get a chance for people to weigh in at the feelings or gut reaction level. You might just ask them: “What is your gut reaction to this… Idea? Topic? Project? Policy? Program?”. Give them 30-40 seconds each to voice whatever is present for them at that moment. That gives them a chance to voice not only positive reactions but also irritations, resistances and objections in a limited time frame. If people are going to resist, then at least everybody knows about it ahead of time rather than being surprised by it later. Then you can figure out how to deal with it. It will certainly keep people awake to be asked their opinion!

4. Get them into pairs or threes at least once very 30 minutes to discuss a topic in the safety of smaller numbers
The fourth step is to get people into small groups at least once every 30 minutes. Most people think this will take you more time. In fact, it takes less time because you don’t waste everybody’s time hearing raw thinking. Instead, you have people do their rough or raw thinking in small groups. And, the dynamics of smaller groups keeps everybody energized and awake! See our earlier blog on small groups below. Another plus of small groups is that they usually have to move out of their seats or move their rolling chairs to sit closer together. And, our next point is about getting them moving.

5. Provide an opportunity to get up and move every 30 minutes
Our fifth tip is to provide an opportunity for everybody to move, stretch, get a glass of water, or whatever you need to do to get everybody to move their bodies at least once in your hour-long meeting. It will definitely increase energy, alertness and productivity. I have used Brain Gym with groups of all sizes and sectors. The key is to explain why you are doing it. If you want to try Brain Gym, see link to our blog video below for a demonstration of this short but fun energizer.

6. After any presentation or report, start at the easy factual level by asking everyone to say quickly “one thing they heard in the report”
Our sixth tip is have everyone say what they heard from a presentation or report. Almost every meeting has a briefing of information. After anything longer than a 5 minute presentation is shared, simply ask everyone to answer this question: “What is one thing you heard from this report?” Why do this? You would be amazed at the good information this brings forth because everyone actually hears something different. Together it creates a more comprehensive picture of what actually was presented. This allows better processing of the information. This tip is based on the ORID technique from the Technology of Participation (ToP ™) which we teach in public classes 2-3 times per year.

7. Always use open ended questions usually starting with What or How.

Our final last step is to always, always use open ended questions. I know that many times I fall into the trap of using the “to be” verb when I state my question (e.g., is, does, did, would, will, could, should, etc). My colleague, Judy Weddle, gave our ToP Facilitation Methods class a tip last week. She said “Just say out loud the word “what” or “how” then pause. Think about how the rest of your questions might go. It forces you to continue with the word what or how. (Most open ended question start with what or how). That way you’re going to invite the kind of answer they want to give. See also our recent blog noted below on this.

Here is what the Verizon/Meetings in America study article suggests as their tips. We agree with these but some take time and preparation which most managers do not have … so we marked the EASY ones.

  • Set clear objectives for each meeting based on the type of meeting being held
  • Focus meetings on substantive topics, e.g. problem identification, progress toward quantitative goals, new ideas for improvement, lessons learned, etc.
  • Always prepare and publish an agenda
  • During the meeting, periodically summarize the discussion (EASY)
  • Reinforce oral communications with written/published documents
  • Conclude with a summary of decisions and action items (EASY)
  • Understand that the meeting dynamics differ for in-person meetings vs. those conducted by audio or videoconferencing – see our blogs on this below.

Now you have no excuse. Nobody should be dozing or daydreaming in your meetings.


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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.


  1. Elaine Phillips on March 20, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    This is immediately usable! Thanks Barb!

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