When people walk into a room for a meeting, they’ll pick up lots of things in the first few moments. They will only be conscious of a few of them but all will make a difference to how they feel and what they say and do when they’re in the room. If you’re the person chairing the meeting that matters a lot. So … be there a bit early so you can prepare the space:
remove old coffee cups and papers left over by the previous occupants of the room have a kettle boiling with hot water or prepared flasks so people can be welcomed with a cup of something warming;
Open the window if it’s stuffy, close it if it’s noisy;
Put chairs so there’s one for everyone you expect to come; if you’re not sure who’ll turn up, have some spare in the corner;
If there’s a flip chart, write up the name of the meeting, with the day and date maybe adding ‘welcome’ – so that when people arrive they can relax because they know straightaway that they’ve made it to the right place;
If you’re facilitating an awayday, you might bring some flowers to put in the corner or some chocolates to share round.
These kind of things will give people the message ‘you matter’. So if you really do think they matter, let people know – by the subconscious messages they receive. And if they know that you think they matter, they’ll probably be more forthcoming in the meeting – because they’ll know that you think what they say matters too.
See Time to Think – listening to ignite the human mind; Nancy Kline; Ward Lock Chapter 11