How to Prevent Burnout at Meetings

There’s a certain irony to meetings: they’re a useful means of discussing ideas that will take the company forward, but by the same token, they can also be a black hole into which good ideas disappear if they are handled badly, further leading to attendee burnout.

While conference delegates need to be focused and productive, the design of a meeting can have the opposite effect and wear them out. If your annual conference involves several educational sessions, hours of networking time and other corporate events, you’re leaving little time for anyone to relax.

While it might seem a good idea to pack as much information as possible into the conference, there’s a serious risk of overloading them with never-ending, similar activities. There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk of this happening.

Yawning at a Meeting

© ChenPG / Adobe Stock

Free time
Although it may seem like you’re wasting valuable time by not providing educational and networking opportunities all day, on the contrary, it can be beneficial to delegates’ wellbeing to give them some free time.

Building some downtime into the agenda lets delegates rest, catch up with friends and family, deal with personal business, explore their surroundings, or even go to the gym. All of these activities will make them more productive during conference sessions, as they will feel rested and more alert.

It’s also a good idea to give attendees somewhere quiet to relax during downtime, such as a lounge area, where they can grab a coffee or light refreshments. Sometimes, people prefer a little peaceful time to themselves, rather than socialising continually.

Provide “brain food”
Meal times offer an opportunity to refuel, so to avoid sluggish feelings (and the mid-afternoon lull), make sure the relevant foods are on offer that will boost brain power.

Rather than providing a whole host of sweet treats at lunch time, including cakes and biscuits, go for healthy options instead. Try serving fish, fresh vegetables, fruits, cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs, granola, nuts, hummus and dips.

When you load up on sugar and carbs, they can cause an instant rise in blood sugar that will act as a pick-me-up. However, beware of the after-effects of this instant boost – you will soon suffer a crash that leaves you feeling hungry again and also very tired.

Vary the format
If you host meetings regularly, don’t always stick to the same tired old format. Meetings shouldn’t be about a rigid adherence to a formula, no matter how successful it might appear. Any format can seem tired and become monotonous after a period of time.

Be adaptable and willing to change. It’s often not the frequency of meetings that causes burnout, but more the format and content.

One idea is to ask each team member, prior to the meeting, to jot down a talking point that they wish to discuss. This means the meeting chair can have a dynamic agenda, based on what the team has requested.

A good way to set this up is by making a list with cards for each item. Then, draw them out of the “hat” to decide the order in which they should be discussed.

Encouraging attendees to help create the agenda gives you a good idea of the anticipated flow of the meeting. There will never seem to be too many meetings if the content is substantial and relevant.

Bright lights
Scientific research has shown that exposure to bright lights gives your tired brain a wake-up call. Participants were asked to wear special glasses that emitted either a dim orange light, or a bright blue light, for 30 minutes after lunch.

Consequently, the early-afternoon lull was less pronounced among the people wearing bright-light glasses. The average office lighting is around 500 lux – a measure of illumination. The glasses emitting the bright blue light in the study were four times brighter at 2,000 lux. If you’re thinking of trying bright light devices, first ask your health care provider for advice on how to safely maximise the benefits.

A simpler alternative at meetings is to enable delegates to pop outside to enjoy some sunshine on their break. This will act as an instant pick-me-up, giving everyone the required boost to carry on powering through the day.

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