The first few minutes of your team meeting sets the pace and tone for the rest of the session. You only get one chance to make a good impression, and your team is looking to you for leadership, guidance and support. What you say and how you say it creates a climate which contributes to the success or failure of the team.
Tips to set your team up for success from the start:
- Countdown: “We’re going to start in two minutes.” Then, start on time.
- Capture their attention with a smart move to the front of the room or head of the table.
- Begin with confidence: Start with an anecdote – share a personal experience that would be understood by all. Make it relevant and genuine. Or use an imaginative visual such as weekend comic strips or editorial pages. Don’t forget to check your copyright laws and, if necessary, ask permission to use the artist’s work.
- Ask a rhetorical question to stimulate thinking on the topic.
- Give a unique demonstration or example.
- Discuss the purpose of the meeting, background information, and explain the team’s value to the organization. Review the team charter or mission, if there is one.
- Introduce who you are and your role on the team. Allow others to introduce themselves, their experience, expectations and/or reservations. Agree on the approach, agenda, and activities. Show how their individual expectations, purpose and agenda correlate. Check for understanding and agreement.
- Clarify expectations for team involvement: e.g. attend meetings, take notes, do homework, read material, conduct research, etc.
- Explain the evaluation system: Let them know if they will have an opportunity to critique the team’s work and their performance as well as how the overall team will be evaluated.
- Agree on ground rules, logistics and other administrivia. Some typical examples might include agreements on start and stop times, breaks, how decisions will be made, who will take notes etc.
To ensure success, keep your comments upbeat and focused. Discuss each point and move on to the next item on the agenda. Don’t allow your comments to drag. Show the team that they are in good hands – that you are well prepared. Then they will be able to put aside some of their concerns and focus on the team’s work.
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator. She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years. She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.