Boredom is the kryptonite of any good meeting, so effective leaders must figure out ways to inject novelty into even the most routine weekly meeting. Some degree of consistency is necessary, says Ward, because you don't want people to be totally caught off guard, but there are also some easy tricks for mixing things up.
If you always have to cover the same four or five agenda items, "don't talk about the same topics in the same order every week," Ward says, "because then people are going to think, 'Oh, this is the 20 minutes when I zone out and this is the five minutes when I pay attention."
Find ways to get new voices into the conversation. Each week, for example, you can assign a different team member to be in the "hot seat," she suggests. Depending on the type of meeting being held, the chosen person can share something interesting they've learned or read or watched this week, or talk about a personal passion or hobby they've been doing outside of work.
"The novelty of that fresh voice is going to stimulate our brain juices just enough to say, 'I'm going to stay checked in at least for a few more minutes,'" says Ward.
But perhaps the most important advice for keeping people engaged is to keep an eye on the clock.
"People will zone out when they don't have a clear sense of when the meeting is going to end," says Ward. "Respecting end times is huge."
As meeting leader, check in halfway (or even more frequently) and announce, "OK, we've got 15 minutes left and we're going to cover these X agenda items." It's just enough of a refresh to keep people's brains on task all the way to the finish line.