Icebreakers for Meetings: Get Your People More Engaged in Your Meetings

icebreakers for meetingsImagine walking into the conference room for another meeting with the people of your organization. After a few minutes of small talk, a time which everyone seems to enjoy, the meeting awkwardly begins. The small talk ceases, as it should. But as you look around the room, you also notice that the smiles that were on the faces of your people when they were making small talk have been replaced with looks of boredom and not-so-subtle anticipation of the meeting’s end. You gather your notes in front of you, which suddenly look so scattered. You flip through the pages, hoping to find something in them that will get your people excited about what you have to say. Of course, you don’t really have anything life-changing to share. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that the weekly meeting was scheduled each week and you felt that you needed to have a meeting in order to communicate to everyone at once, the meeting could have been avoided. You’re suddenly wondering if this is really the best use of your people’s time. What could they be doing right now if they weren’t gathered around this large table? Surely they would be engaged in something much more productive.

Meetings tend to be one part of working for any organization that people dread the most. People often long for the few times when a meeting is cancelled, and when they do have to attend a meeting, they desperately hope that it is at least a short one. Within a few short minutes, people’s eyes start to glaze over.

Ideally, you have something really important to share concerning the organization, but the attention spans of your people make question whether or not your people are even paying attention. When meetings go this way, it’s a drain on the organization’s time and money. Sometimes it’s a struggle with communication on the part of the meeting facilitator. Other times, it’s more than just communication skills that are needed to make a meeting more worthwhile.

 Why Have Meetings?

Any organization that hopes to be successful and always be improving has to have meetings, but the way an organization has meetings is just as important as why they have meetings. Ironically, however, without a clearly established reason that is adequately communicated to your people of why you have a meeting, your people will likely not be in a great frame of mind to be fully engaged in the meeting when it begins. Meetings work best in an organizational environment where there’s a clear sense of being a team. These types of organizations understand that every single person that works there is valuable and has something important to offer to the rest of the team. Leaders of organizations should understand that every person they hire should be uniquely gifted in certain areas, and the organization will be much more successful when everyone on the team contributes from their core competencies. A team-oriented environment cannot succeed without regular times of meeting together and strategizing. And meetings like these should be anything but boring. For companies like Google, Apple, and Pixar, meetings are something that the people who work for those organizations look forward to the most. Wouldn’t you love to have meetings like that?

Characteristics of More Engaged Meetings

If you’re going to have a meeting with your people, you have to determine whether or not the meeting is worth your people’s time and the money it will cost the organization to have the meeting. If your people aren’t in a meeting, then they’re engaged in doing their job. Therefore, you need to make sure whatever it is you feel needs to be shared in a meeting will be beneficial to making the organization more effective. Your people will be much more likely to be engaged in the meeting if they know the agenda of the meeting at the outset. In fact, they should know the agenda for the meeting long before the day of the meeting if possible. A well thought out agenda should include everything the meeting will cover, but it should go a step above this in framing it within a compelling reason why a meeting is the best place to tackle the agenda. You want your people to know what the meeting is about, but you also want them to feel that the meeting is important. If the reason for the meeting is truly beneficial to the overall health of the organization, then communicating a compelling reason for having the meeting should be easy and your people should buy into it.

Icebreakers for Meetings

Another important element to having more engaged meetings is to do something that gets your people engaged from the moment they walk into the conference room. Many of your people are probably accustomed to having dull and lifeless meetings, and the feelings associated with those types of meetings may come automatically no matter how much you’ve prepared your people with a compelling agenda. That’s why icebreakers for meetings can be very important at the beginning of a meeting. Use something that will get your people interested in being there and actively engaged in the meeting’s agenda.

The key to coming up with icebreakers for any meeting is to consider the purpose of the meeting. You don’t want to have an icebreaker that is completely irrelevant to the rest of the meeting. Yet you do want your people engaged throughout the meeting, and part of this is being fully present both physically and mentally. An icebreaker that engages the mind and provokes thought is sure to help your people be more alert to the overall agenda of the meeting.

Some of the best icebreakers for meetings are well thought out questions that a leader poses to their team and the team discusses. The questions are thought-provoking and gives the team a sense of being on the same page. Here are a few icebreaker questions you could use for your meetings.

  • What is the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?

  • What is one thing that would make your work more productive right now?

  • What is one thing that is keeping you from reaching your peak performance?

  • How is our team culture doing right now?

  • What’s something we could do to engage in more productive and involved team work?

  • Who is one person on our team who has made your job easier this past week?

  • What do you think is the greatest strength you bring to our team?

  • What is one thing we can do to help each other develop as leaders?

  • What is the one complaint you go home with about your job each day, and what can we do to eliminate it?

  • What are some aspects of our current project that you see that no one else has brought up?

  • What questions do you have about our current project?

As you can see, these questions are designed to get your people’s minds engaged in the organization and how to improve it. Take some time before every meeting to come up some thought-provoking icebreaker questions that will get your people engaged in the agenda of the meeting.

For many organizations, meetings are something to be dreaded and suffered through most of the time. It doesn’t have to be that way. A healthy organizational structure can make meetings one of the places where their team thrives the most as they come up with creative and productive ways to get the job done.