Enhance Your Meetings by Taking the    Emotional Temperature of the Room

Named by Inc. as one of the top 100 leadership speakers, Shelley Row, P.E., is an engineer and former government and association executive. Shelley’s leadership work focuses on developing insightful leaders who can see beyond the data.

Have you ever felt a certain “temperature” in a room when you walk into a meeting?

I’m not talking about whether the room is too hot or too cold, but the emotional temperature.

Discover the emotional temperature by making it easy for participants to state their feelings about the topic, process, or outcome. This knowledge gives you a productivity edge. Check out this example.

It was a tiring meeting, but we knew it would be. The strategic planning discussion would set the future direction and tone for the organization.

We started by asking questions to help get a feel for the emotional temperature in the room. “Before we begin, let’s check in. How do you feel as we start this strategic discussion?” Around the room, we heard: “enthusiastic, anxious, optimistic, guarded, hopeful.”

As the meeting came to a close, we asked the staff the same question again. “As we wrap up the discussion, how do you feel about where our strategic discussion ended?” This time… “Encouraged, overwhelmed, satisfied, energized, worried.”

The simple question that I offered in my strategic planning meeting does the trick.


Why is it helpful to ask these questions?

All conversations and meetings have an emotional context. As humans, we feel before we think. The emotional state of the people in the room impacts the outcome of the discussion, the nature of their participation, and future productivity. You can either gain intelligence about the emotional state in the room or find out about it outside of the room from hallway conversations. It is best to have this information in the moment for so that you can more effectively manage

In a well-planned meeting, you thought through the purpose, you have an agenda and you manage the discussion. Additionally, all conversations and meetings have an emotional undertone which is often overlooked. Just as you would get facts on the table, it’s best to get emotional content on the table, too.  It does not have to be hard. The simple question that I offered in my strategic planning meeting does the trick. When you check the emotional state of mind up front and at the end of a meeting/conversation it serves two functions.

For leaders. As the meeting leader, when you take the emotional temperature at the beginning, you gain critical information that allows you to more adeptly manage the meeting and discussion. When I hear someone say “enthusiastic,” I know to engage them more so that their enthusiasm impacts others. When I hear, “concern,” I know to listen closely to understand. At the end of the meeting, if I still hear “overwhelm” or “concern,” I know to follow up and learn more so that we attain the objective.

For individuals. The emotional state of each participant is at work under the surface. That emotion colors participants’ decision-making, engagement level and their motivation during and after the discussion. When you invite them to voice their feelings about the topic it brings the emotion into focus for them. When they acknowledge it out loud, it validates the feeling and lessens the impact. (Research shows that validating feelings tends to reduce the brain’s threat response.)

Give this a try at your next meeting! Notice the additional information it gives you to more effectively manage the meeting. It’s a simple and powerful technique.

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