What is the most important thing to do when starting a meeting?
- Go over the ground rules for the meeting?… We think not.
- Introduce people if they don’t know each other?… Important – but not first.
- Review the agenda?… A very common error.
Consider this: at the beginning of a meeting, people typically want to know TWO things, so how you start should answer these two things right away.
- Why am I here?
- Why should I care?
In our courses, The Effective Facilitator and Facilitating Masterful Meetings, we teach the importance of answering these two questions first – before diving into other areas. To help ensure that the two questions are answered well, we use the abbreviations “IEEI” as a reminder of the things to include in your opening to start a meeting.
Inform | Let the participants know the purpose of the meeting and the product to be produced.
Excite | Explain the benefits of the meeting and why this meeting should be important to them.
Empower | Describe the role they will play or the authority that has been given to them.
Involve | Get them involved immediately through an engagement question that furthers the meeting purpose.
Unfortunately, meeting leaders often start meetings by reviewing the agenda—if they have one—and diving straight into the first agenda item. As a result, participants often aren’t sure of the purpose of the meeting, the products to be produced, why the meeting is beneficial, or why the meeting should be important to them. In essence, meetings often begin with an ineffective start that can negatively affect the rest of the meeting.
We believe an effective start includes the following elements.
Checklist for Starting:
*Recommended for all meetings
Download the printable checklist here!
The start can take as little as five minutes and as long as 45 minutes or more depending on the size of the group, the length of the meeting, and the steps you use. You should adjust the list as appropriate for the meetings you lead. Those items asterisked (*) should be done to start every meeting, regardless of number of participants or importance.
In The Effective Facilitator, we cover how to start the meeting on time. Here, let’s focus on your opening words – IEEI.
We recommend that meeting leaders and facilitators use words like the following at the beginning of meetings.
“The purpose of this meeting is…When we are done, we will walk away with…”
What a great way to start a meeting! These words inform everyone of why we are here (purpose) and what we will have when we are done (product). These words help get everyone on the same page.
Tip for Managers:
If someone asks you to attend a meeting, consider asking that person the purpose/product questions:
- What is the purpose of the meeting? What are you trying to accomplish?
- When we are done, what will we walk away with? What will we have that we didn’t have before the meeting started?
The answers can certainly help you avoid unorganized, unfocused, and unproductive meetings!
The excite segment is the part of IEEI that is most often overlooked by meeting leaders. The goal of the excite segment is to answer the question, “Why should I care?” Without the excite, you may have people in the room, but are they really at the table?
How do you excite? You excite by making statements that answer the question for them, “What’s in it for me?” Compare these two sample openings. Which one does the better job of exciting?
|Excite Sample I:
|Excite Sample II:
Which is the better excite statement?
- We agree that the second sample is by far the better excite statement.
Why is that?
- It does a better job of describing the benefits to the person.
AND, did you notice one other thing?
- Count the number of times the words “you” or “your” show up in the excite statements.
A key secret to getting people excited about participating in a meeting is to explain what is in it for them. And, you can help ensure you do this well by including the words “you” or “your” at least four times in the excite portion of the IEEI.
The goal in empowering participants is to ensure that they are clear on the power they have while in the meeting. When people feel empowered, they tend to be less hesitant to participate in discussion and more willing to offer their thoughts and ideas.
Below are three samples of empowering. Typically, a single, focused, empowering statement is adequate. Other times, you may find that multiple statements are needed to empower a group that is used to being told what to do.
After delivering the opening, consider getting the participants immediately involved. Why? The involvement step engages everyone quickly and prepares them for the rest of the meeting.
How do you involve participants early in a meeting? For some teams, it is best to start with a question that is focused on the task at hand. For other teams, it may be more appropriate to start with a question that takes more of a people-focus. Consider the following samples.
|Involve Examples: Key Topics Approach
Personal Outcomes Approach
One-Minute Check-in Approach
Learn more facilitation skills like IEEI in our courses. Our course, The Effective Facilitator, is for you and your team if you lead complex, large-group sessions that require in-depth facilitation training and practice. Our course, Facilitating Masterful Meetings, is for you and your team if you regularly lead standard group meetings that require fundamental skills building.
About the Author
Michael Wilkinson is the CEO and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies, the largest provider of professional facilitators and facilitation training in the country. Michael is a much sought after trainer, facilitator and speaker. He is a Certified Master Facilitator and a Certified Professional Facilitator. As a past president of the Southeast Association of Facilitators, the creator of the FindaFacilitator.com database and a board member of the International Institute of Facilitation, Michael is a national leader in the facilitation industry. You can get more tips from Michael’s books, including The Executive Guide to Facilitating Strategy, The Secrets of Facilitation, The Secrets to Masterful Meetings, and CLICK: The Virtual Meetings Book.