An intentional marketing strategy calls for stores to put some of their “loss leaders” or discounted items right at the entranceway as a way to entice consumers to put an item in their cart. Target has its “Bullseye” section of $1-5 items, and other stores put seasonal merchandise or tempting treats right when you enter. Retailers have proven that if customers put something in their cart, they are more likely to add items to it, so displays are frontloaded to jumpstart that buying process.
The same psychological trickery can benefit you in meetings. If you are faced with crickets during your time together, a way to circumvent the silence is to structure your agenda so that others begin talking right from the start. Early engagement sets the tone for people to continue their participation and signals that you are not the only voice at the table.
You can accomplish this through a rotation of “nuggets” (dot 108), check-in questions, or an icebreaker, and by assigning others to lead the opening exercise or by sharing responsibility to have different people kick off the meeting with a fun activity or treat. You can also inject some silliness like Kim Scott’s “Whoops-a-Daisy” to encourage people to open up. What you do is less important than having others become active at the beginning. It’s the meeting equivalent of putting one thing in the cart — one comment often leads to others.
Even if you’re the convener, don’t carry the whole load yourself. Instead, create a consistent structure for others to use their voice and wisdom to create the engagement you seek.