5 Terrible Ways to Start a Meeting

Written by:

The Be Courageous Team

Ways to destroy your meeting before it begins

“We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” If only every meeting started with a Prince song!

In the wounded workplace culture post-pandemic, we’ve been seeing teams get off to bumpy starts, which derails productivity, collaboration and results.

Here, we discuss how to start a meeting for the most positive outcomes, but below, we’ll give you the top five ways we’ve seen meetings get destroyed before they start.

5 prompts that ruin your meeting climates

Negative Prompt: “-----.”

I.e. Not saying anything to set the climate or why you’re all there.

Why it fails:

People will waste mental energy trying to figure out what’s going on. Often, multiple agendas will emerge, resulting in a muddled and confused meeting. It also has the longer term damage of people not wanting to come to your meetings, because they’re never clear about if it is important.

Example:
“Hey everyone, I thought it was about time we all got together, what does everyone want to talk about?” (Everyone is thinking, “Dude, you called the bloody meeting!”)

Negative Prompt: “Problems, problems, problems.”

I.e. Starting by talking about things that went poorly.

Why it fails:

This climate kicks off negatively with guilt and shame, leaving you with a hole to climb out of. Everyone’s minds will be on keeping themselves safe and holding back their good ideas. You can use your meeting to put energy into solving problems, just don’t start the climate from a problem place.

Example:
“We are critically behind on our projections because of the app not launching on schedule.”

Negative Prompt: “Well, you know Jim, he’s always late.”

I.e. Blaming someone, judging them, even as a joke.

Why it fails:

Starting a meeting with blame makes everyone feel they have a target on their back, or that they could be next, so they put their mental energy into being careful and looking after themselves, rather than into the content of the meeting that everyone has come together to solve.

Example:
“Well everything was going great until the comms team stepped in and…just kidding, you guys are great.”

Negative Prompt: “Jane, you’re up first.” (Jane looks shocked.)

I.e. Immediately putting someone on the spot.

Why it fails:

Starting like this is a sign of bad planning and communication by the meeting organizer, which can put everyone in a “oh @#$@, was I meant to prepare something for this meeting?!” panic, with everyone trying to figure out if they’re next to be called on. If this is a Zoom meeting,they’ll be scrambling to read the invitation or any emails related to the meeting. Also, you are not giving the participants the opportunity to present at their best.

Example:
“Ayesha, can you present the findings of the study you said you started to conduct last week?”

Negative Meeting Prompt: “Demand, demand, demand.”

Why it fails:

Fear-based leadership can have productive outcomes, as fear-based teams are in a constant frenetic state of pleasing. But life is short, and people have choices. The meeting room might become empty as they’ll eventually quit.

Example:
“Last time we got together it wasn’t very good. I expect it to be better this time. So, who would like to share their billion dollar idea?”… **petrified silence… “No, that’s not it. Next.”

Be mindful in your next meeting

In your next meeting, be mindful of the way you begin, because it can really affect the mood, productivity, creativity, courage, and problem-solving conversations. Need help for yourself as a leader or in your organization to train facilitation skills to your leadership teams? Reach out, it’s our secret sauce we’d like to share!
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