Leading a Meeting? How to Avoid a Snooze Fest

by Jennifer Miller on June 28, 2012

in Business Management, Leadership

Bored people at meetingThe last time you led a meeting longer than 60 minutes, how did it go? Were people engaged, offering ample ideas throughout? Or, did everyone’s eyes glaze over at about 1:00 PM after the catered lunch began to digest . . . and then  . . . the food coma. sets. in.


As a meeting leader, it’s tough to keep people’s attention for an extended period of time. According to the site effective meetings.com:

  • 91% of professionals admit to daydreaming during meetings and
  • 39% admit to dozing off!

You don’t want to add to the challenge by being an ineffective discussion leader.

As a former corporate trainer with thousands of workshops under my belt, I’ve learned that the principles of managing group dynamics in a learning workshop apply to running business meetings as well.   Today I’m sharing six simple ways to get people more involved in your meetings – and therefore less likely to tune out. Follow these tips and your meetings won’t be a snooze-fest.

Six Tips for Getting People Involved at Meetings

  1. Count to ten before giving your input. It’s tempting to jump in with a clarifying question (or worse, your own opinion) when the crickets chirp in your meeting. Resist the urge and silently count to ten before you make any noise. Sometimes, people need a minute to think. Give them that space.
  2. Make eye contact. This is especially important if the discussion is getting heated. Maintaining eye contact helps you maintain authority in a low-key way. It also helps refocus the attention of meeting participants whose attention has drifted.
  3. Call people by their names. Dale Carnegie’s quote “remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language” is just as true for business meetings as for when you first meet somebody.  With informal settings of fewer than 10 people, this tip may be unnecessary. But if the group is larger than ten, I suggest that you use people’s name when you call on them. meeting leader at whiteboard
  4. Reward it. When someone offers a suggestion, be grateful. They are doing what you need them to do – participate! Granted, the idea may not be the best one, but be sure to show appreciation for the contribution.
  5. Network their comments. Want to know the single best way to show people you are genuinely giving credence to their ideas? “Network” their comments, which sounds like this: “Martina, what you’re suggesting sounds similar to what Bobby mentioned a few minutes ago, except you are advocating that we ____ instead of ____. Is that correct?” By networking participants’ comments you create connections between people in the room and you are amplifying the ideas being presented.
  6. Respect their dignity. Let’s face it, sometimes the input offered is completely off track. It’s up to you as the meeting leader to find a way to “do something” with extraneous input while still maintaining the dignity of the person who offered it. You can offer to put the idea in a parking lot, or take the issue up one-to-one with that person at a later time. The key thing is to remain unperturbed. The person offered up the idea in good faith and if he/she perceives that you (or others) think their idea is stupid, they won’t contribute again.  Side note: in extreme cases of “over contribution”, this is probably what you are hoping for – that the person will shut up. Just be sure your meeting leadership exhibits integrity.

Group Participation – Master the People Equation for Optimum Meeting Output

Leaders and project managers often have the mechanics of meeting management down pat: establish a standing meeting time, create an agenda, etc. These are all important, yet it’s what happens as people interact during the meeting that will determine the effectiveness of your meeting’s output. When you, as a leader, pay attention to the people part of the equation, you will ensure involvement. . .which leads to productivity. And then your team meetings won’t have daydreamers or snoozers.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lizzie June 30, 2012 at 2:30 am

Great tips … I am definitely guilty of the first offense. I often jump in with more words when the silence strikes. Thanks for the tips!

Jennifer Miller June 30, 2012 at 7:00 am

Hey, Lizzie,

Thanks for dropping by. Yes, it’s tough to let silence prevail, but I find that “space” often surfaces some good discussion.

Jennifer Miller July 31, 2012 at 7:26 pm


Hi! Thanks for your contribution. I agree completely with you on the engagement issue. In fact I even wrote about it here:


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