How To Spend The First Five Minutes Of Every Meeting

The first five minutes of a meeting are the most important. Whether you're meeting with your sales team or a client, it's important to be purposeful and clear from the very beginning. When you create a welcoming environment where everyone feels encouraged to participate, you help set the stage for a productive meeting.

Elise Keith, a speaker and author of Where the Action Is: The Meetings That Make or Break Your Organization, says that if you want people to engage in a meeting, you have to make it clear up front. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we discuss Keith's advice for successfully opening a meeting and why the first five minutes matter.

Bring everyone into the room. You can't have a meeting of the minds if the minds aren't in the meeting. Keith encourages every leader to remember that each person invited to your meeting was in the middle of doing something else right before it started. People arrive with minds full of tasks left undone and needs unfulfilled. A successful opening should capture everyone's attention. The phones will go dark, the typing stops and eyes connect. Consider welcoming everyone at the door. A personal greeting and welcome works just as well in meetings as when hosting a gathering at your home. Teams at Starbucks often pour each other coffee for a short tasting before the meeting begins. Even starting by clearly stating the meeting's purpose, rather than the logistics, creates more energy.

Set expectations. You can command a room's attention in many ways, but reading the agenda is not one of them. Remember that we don't meet in order to get through an agenda; we meet for a purpose. We meet to create shared understanding, to make decisions and to set plans in motion. A successful opening clarifies the purpose of the meeting—why the meeting matters and why it's relevant to everyone there. The agenda is the how. Never start with how; start with why.

Engage everyone in the room. Once you have captured attention and worked to make your aspirations for the meeting clear, it's time for engagement. Everyone in the meeting should directly engage within the first five minutes. This is why many meetings begin by going around the room to answer a simple question. It's neither feasible nor polite to continue texting when a room full of people turn to you for an answer. Another idea is to begin with a few minutes of meditation. This helps clear the mind of lingering distractions, while making it impossible to continue fiddling with a laptop.

Make it safe to engage. Fighting off distraction makes productivity possible, and that's a worthy goal. A successful meeting opener should also tell people that it's safe to speak up in this group. It tells each person that they matter, that they belong and that the other people there care about what they have to bring to the table. Doing this sets the frame for everything that follows, and the right frame makes meetings more productive and more meaningful.

Before kicking off your next meeting, consider the benefit of using the first five minutes wisely. Experiment and see what best for your team. Your goal isn't to run a flawless meeting; it's to conduct a meeting with a clear purpose that encourages engagement.
Source: Elise Keith is Lucid Meetings' co-founder, CEO and resident meeting maven. She's the author of Where the Action Is: The Meetings That Make or Break Your Organization. She's also the author of's Ask the Meeting Maven column, a regular contributor and expert commentator on all things related to business meetings. She's also a frequent speaker on the topic of better meetings everywhere.

filed under July 2019
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