For a DJ, the worst possible disaster is dead air, the agonizing moments of silence when you should be filling the airtime with words or music and there is just nothing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a technical glitch or human error, you can almost feel the impatient audience “tuning out” with each second that goes by. They’re counting on you for continuity.
Have you ever experienced dead air at the beginning of a business meeting? Whoever’s running the meeting has an obligation to show up, start on time, and lead the participants through the 60 minutes. There should be a clear purpose, a non-stop flow of information and ideas, and most importantly, a dose of passion, humor or excitement to keep everyone moving forward and on track. This goes for face-to-face meetings or WebEx meetings.
I’ve joined far too many online meetings where the participants just sit quietly after joining in, waiting for the host to officially get the meeting started. This typically creates an awkward 4 minute “dead air” lag as colleagues arrive from other meetings. If you start your meetings on time, you’ll increase the odds of people showing up on time. Even so, some will always straggle in late. Hosts hesitate to start until everyone is there so they can avoid having to repeat anything.
Why not use this 4 minutes to accomplish something? Here are three ways to fill the dead air with something productive:
- Review the meeting agenda written on a whiteboard or a PPT slide so latecomers can catch up later. Focus on what your attendees will walk away with. If your audience does not have a clear need for your information, ask yourself why you are having a meeting in the first place.
- Look for a reason to say “good job” to someone in the room or on the call. There’s nothing like genuine and public praise on a recent accomplishment. It could even be your boss… say thanks for supporting budget or an initiative important to the team. (Careful not to be a Eddie Haskell brown-noser. “Gee Mrs. Cleaver, that’s a lovely necklace you’re wearing today.”)
- Have some fun – tell a funny short story, ask a trivia question or tell a G-rated joke. I keep a desk calendar with corny jokes nearby, which I threaten to use every time we start late. It’s starting to work.
The conclusion of a meeting is extremely important. You summarize what was done, assign action items and agree on the agenda for the next meeting. The beginning of a meeting is equally as important. You set a tone that you’re here to get something done, but you don’t take yourself too seriously. Sitting quietly seems like a real waste of time. With my schedule, I have roughly 80 meeting minutes per week to turn dead air into something alive. Give it a try at your next meeting and let me know what happens.
Share your tricks for making meetings more engaging and effective in the comments below. Thanks!
P.S. Before you ask… no, that is NOT me in the photo 🙂