Dear Meeting Guru,

I host approximately 10 teleconferences per week. There are often more than 10 participants. Do you have any advice on how to get people motivated for and involved in teleconferences?

St. Louis, MO

Blessed Meeter,

First ask yourself if all meeting participants need to be at the meeting. Smaller meetings are less formal, participants feel more inclined to contribute and the discussion becomes more focused. Once you’ve determined whose attendance is necessary for these meetings, assign a specific task to each participant. This urges participants to prepare for the meeting discussion and get more involved with the meeting itself.

One of the best ways to get people interested in their meetings is to make them a little more interesting and fun. Here are a few ideas that would work for teleconferenced meetings:

Freebies. Provide small gifts at both sites, such as pens, toys or treats to welcome participants and express appreciation for attending the meeting.
Sound signals. You don't need a gavel to call a meeting to order. There are all kinds of bells and whistles that do the job more pleasantly (how about a kazoo?).
Games. Simple games can be available to occupy people's hands during meeting discussion. They also add a fun factor to the meeting (at both sides of the call). Some options are Silly Putty, yo-yos, Slinkys, Koosh balls, Nerf balls, etc.
Speaker Identifiers. Use different sounds to identify the different speakers. Instead of an individual announcing that he’s about to speak, he can use a specific sound to identify himself. This might add some humor to the meetings.

Making teleconferenced meetings more fun is trickier than modifying in-person meetings because there isn’t a visual element involved. Perhaps your best bet is to generate more fun at both sides of the conference call. Then participants' moods will lighten and the meeting may become more interesting.

For more ideas on how to generate fun in meetings, read this submission by a fellow subscriber with the same meeting dilemma.

Meetings don’t have to be serious and stuffy in order to be considered successful. As long as the objective of the meeting is achieved, there’s always room for a little fun. As Confucius once said, "Be aroused by poetry, structure yourself with propriety, refine yourself with music." Even in the scholarly world, music and poetry were considered an important part of learning, not a distraction.

Until next time… may good meeting karma always be with you.



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