Running a successful and effective meeting, whether large or small, requires one key element: engagement. In other words, those attending your meeting can’t simply sit back and listen. If you want them to receive true value from your message and take action on your ideas, you must make the effort to engage your audience. The more involved and engaged people are, the better their comprehension and retention of information.
For example, think back to your days in the academic world. Chances are you had teachers and professors who taught via lecture format, and others who taught with a hands-on and involvement approach. In one class you sat in your seat for the prescribed amount of time and simply listened to your instructor drone on (perhaps taking a few notes just to stay awake), and in another class you interacted with the instructor, answering and asking questions, forming project groups, presenting and receiving ideas, and perhaps even getting up and moving about the room.
If you’re like most people, the classes you enjoyed most were the ones where you had involvement and your instructor engaged the class. For most people, the lecture-style classroom was boring and tedious, and a downright chore to regularly attend. The same concept holds true in business. Those business professionals who engage their staff, their meeting attendees, their co-workers and their clients fare far better than those who don’t.
When people are engaged, they pay attention. This then creates a synergy, because the speaker or meeting leader feels the engagement and responds with more energy and enthusiasm, which builds even more engagement. When it’s all over, both recipients of the communication have a higher reward factor.
To make every meeting and interaction you have meaningful and engaging, keep the following engagement principles in mind.
It’s about surprise.
Connect to your listeners in an unexpected manner. You want to create an interactive experience that causes the “a-ha” light to go off in people’s brains and the “deer-in-the-headlight look” of astonishment to cross their face. Give people startling facts, tell a relevant joke, engage them with real-life stories – anything to help form a connection. As you do this, realize that when you’re conducting a meeting, there is no stage or divider between you and your attendees. All four corners of the room are “touchpoints,” so make sure everyone in each of the four quadrants is engaged and involved in the experience – even those people who tend to hide in the back row or in the corners. After all, the meeting is meaningful for people only if the time spent is unique and vivid.
Find a bigger shared interest.
People love to share and talk. If they experience something collectively, they talk about the experience every time they have the opportunity. Therefore, rather than just talk to people, give them something to talk about. For example, you could have them do an exercise together, role play with volunteers or have attendees act out a skit to drive home a key point. Always remember that engagement is about connecting experiences that drive conversations, long after the engagement is over. When you do so, people will talk about you, your company or your brand to others. Talk about great marketing and credibility building that comes at no additional cost to you!
Focus on your listeners.
Never forget that the only people who matter in your meeting are your attendees. Therefore, make your listeners and/or attendees the true stars of the show. Focus on their needs and intertwine examples they give you in casual conversation into your presentation. Additionally, during your talk, solicit audience feedback and get their opinion on topics. Everyone loves to be treated like a VIP. When you keep your audience actively engaged and involved, they will become your biggest evangelists. People appreciate being treated as special, which occurs when they are involved, and as such, their message retention is much greater. No matter what, always leave your audience with a content driver that they can remember, act upon and share with others.
The Power of Engagement
When you take the time to engage your listeners, you provide enough value so you become an indispensible resource to your attendees, who in turn become your best sales force. Remember, people want something more. They don’t want to just sit in a chair and listen; they want to feel a bit livelier. Good meetings engagement is strategic, because attendees are ready to receive one or more messages you want to deliver to them. And by engaging and involving your audience, their heart share and mind share are open to receiving your message. This then allows you to create, innovate, entertain and deliver content in a lasting and meaningful way.