Meetings work best when participants are relaxed, energized and ready to contribute. To start your meeting off well, plan warm-up activities that will get participants thinking and talking from the start. Warm-ups can get employees out of their individual work mindset and help them transition to a more collaborative frame of mind.
Before the meeting, ask everyone to come up with a list of five ideas that relate to the topic. You might request that they come up with story ideas, new products or even the most off-the-wall things possible. At the beginning of the meeting, ask everyone to read out their idea list for the group. In doing so, you can let everyone participate and bring ideas that they have prepared already; it gives them the chance to contribute without having to think on the spot.
High and Low
To start off a meeting, have each person state their high point and low point of the past week or the past day. The highs and lows can be tiny and personal or big and serious; the point is to get everyone talking and to create an open atmosphere. The exercise also allows you to gauge the mood of the group and lets meeting attendees commiserate and celebrate together. Even if you don't discuss the things employees share, it may give them ideas about how they can help out a team member or adjust their own behavior to support the group.
For a fun way to open a meeting and get people thinking ahead, tell a progressive story. One person starts by saying a single sentence to start off a story, and the next person continues it. The story changes with each person, often getting more and more ridiculous. To keep it fun, challenge your team to come up with a story that follows a particular theme or that is as absurd as possible.
For a professional take on the old grade-school game, play the telephone game. Before the meeting, come up with a statement that relates to the topic or a big project that is consuming the minds of your team. Whisper it to one person; he must turn to the next person and whisper the statement as quickly as possible. The last person in line must say the statement aloud. The results are often comical enough to relax the group, and the game can also illustrate how news can change simply by word of mouth.