Top executives spend thousands of hours each year dealing with emails and unproductive meetings and the loss trickles down throughout the organization. Lost time isn't just spent in the meetings themselves. The process of preparing and winding down from meetings cuts into productivity as well, with employees at all levels losing valuable work time each week.

However, meetings are an essential part of doing business. Despite the many collaborative tools available, face-to-face meetings remain the most efficient way to exchange ideas quickly. Holding the attention of today's tech-distracted, fast-paced workers can present numerous challenges, especially if those employees are already time challenged. It's important that your meetings be efficient and interesting or you may be wasting everyone's time. Here are a few tips to capture and hold attention during your next business meeting.

Make It Interactive

If your meetings consist of one person speaking at length to a roomful of people, your employees likely are only capturing a percentage of what's being said. Instead of spending a half an hour reviewing the plan for your upcoming project, for instance, you could invite your employees to participate in the planning process during a brainstorming project. Ask for questions throughout the meeting and repeat each question to the group when it is asked. Allow employees to see each other through video conferencing. If your employees feel as though they are taking part in the meeting, they'll be more likely to remain alert and interested.

Use Visual Aids

Visual aids are a great way to engage your meeting participants, giving them something interesting to look at. However, PowerPoint slides have become so ingrained in work meetings, employees sometimes get slide fatigue. Consider using other presentation apps to give your slides a kick, but don't overdo it. Too many graphics and sound effects can turn your meeting into a circus.

Bring in Food

This is my favorite tip. Even if nothing gets accomplished, at least you had something to eat. Instead of holding your standard staff meeting every Monday morning, host special lunches where employees are invited to eat before the meeting starts. Even a box of doughnuts or bagels can give workers a reason to look forward to meetings. By adding food to meetings, businesses encourage conversation and camaraderie between employees.

Gamify

Give employees a reason to pay attention by making a game out of it. Prior to the meeting, hand out a Buzzword Bingo Sheet and announce that the first attendee to get Bingo wins a prize. As participants use buzzwords like "fast track" and "game plan," employees can check them off on their sheets. Not only will they stay alert, they'll have fun.

Reward Contributions

One trick professional speakers use to encourage interaction is to reward those who ask or answer questions when prompted. You could simply bring a bag of Hershey's Kisses or other small foil-wrapped candy to the meeting and toss a piece to each audience member who participates. Even audience members who don't like chocolate will often want to be part of the fun.

Shake Things Up

Over time, it's easy for a workplace to fall into a routine. The next time a meeting is scheduled, surprise employees with a special "field trip" to a fun location like a bowling alley or ice cream parlor. Your employees will likely enjoy the outing and when you do get back into the conference room, they will have a greater sense of camaraderie as well as some great stories to tell.

Business meetings are a required part of work, but they don't have to be boring. By finding ways to make your meetings interesting and fun, you'll keep employees' attention and get great ideas from your team. Occasionally throw in a surprise or two and you'll find morale and productivity both improve and employees eventually begin looking forward to your meetings.

Published on: Nov 21, 2014