How to Start a Meeting: 3 Tips for the First 5 Minutes

Every stand up comic and professional speaker will tell you the same thing. Open with your best material. Both comics and speakers know that the first 5 minutes of your presentation are the most critical.

The same philosophy applies to running a business meeting.

how to start a meeting

by Robin Hutton

Let’s say it’s time for the weekly staff meeting. Jack will lead the meeting, as per usual. He is laying out the one page agenda at every seat around the conference table. As his team files in, he doesn’t make eye contact with anyone and only says a semi-curtious “hey.” He’s had a rough day already and just wants to get this meeting over with. Everyone takes their seat and when Jack sits down he lets out a sigh and begins the meeting with, “Alright, item #1…,” reading off of the agenda.

The tone has been set.

Everyone will now be withdrawn and looking at their watches. All because the team leader was on autopilot and wanting to check the meeting off his to-do list. It will be an uphill battle to get the team enthusiastic or, at the very least, engaged.

Those first five minutes are like a trailer for a movie. It will either get you excited about what’s coming up, or make you whisper to the person next to you “That’s gonna be terrible.”

Here are a few ways you can make sure you’re starting things off properly:

  1. Be What You Want to See: 60-80% of our communication is nonverbal. Within a tenth of a second *snap*, people can sense your mood and energy level. Couple that with the amazing power of mirror neurons, and you have paved the path for the meeting experience.
    When your team walks in the room, they are looking to you for clues about how the meeting is going to go. If you have a dark cloud over your head, the energy of the room sinks. If you are positive and assertive, they are put at ease.
    Here’s where it gets a little tricky.

    Your mirror neurons and nonverbal detectors are at work, just like theirs. Don’t let 
    their energy levels sway you from your assertive state. Stay focused. Be the leader through your body language. If you want them to be friendly, upbeat, and engaged, the you have to be friendly, upbeat, and engaged.
  2. Be a Person, Not a Narrator: Some people have a habit of starting the meeting by reading from the agenda. Talk about disconnect. If you do this, then you are beginning your meeting without making eye contact with your team. They, in turn, are likely to all have their heads down, reading the agenda. The point of meeting face-to-face is to maintain rapport and collaborate. 
    how to start a meeting

    by Voka


    Prepare your opening remarks. Don’t rely on your agenda from the get-go.

  3. Where Does This Piece Fit in the Puzzle?: People always want to know that they are working toward a higher purpose and not just shuffling around the minutia. Your opening statements should remind everyone how this meeting fits into the overall vision. How will this help the company? How will today’s meeting benefit the team? How will the discussion move a project forward?You will get more engagement if they see the bigger picture.

What is your experience with beginning meetings? What has worked well? Any pet peeves about how other people kick off a meeting? Leave your comments in the section below!