There is no one best way to start a meeting. There are several best ways. An annual general meeting of board members would not start the same way as an end of day meeting of junior and midlevel executives. Likewise, a meeting at a workshop will start differently from a meeting of managers over lunch. The best ways to start a meeting have to be conceived bearing in mind the type of meeting, who all are attending the meeting, the context or purpose of the meeting and what has to be achieved.
One of the best ways to start a meeting is to use icebreakers. Regardless of who’s attending and what the purpose is, there can always be some appropriate icebreakers which can be used to get everyone on the same page. It is necessary that the attendees are drawn into the meeting and they all remain active and possibly proactive throughout the meeting. That cannot be achieved if everyone isn’t paying equal attention or being optimally receptive to what is being talked about. Icebreakers help everyone relax and you can also make a point. Often, important revelations or realizations can be furthered using interesting icebreakers. The revelation doesn’t come across as preaching but the point is made and everyone attending the meeting accepts it without feeling bombarded with something.
One effective approach to start a meeting is to throw the ball in the court of the attendees. Everyone expects the one presiding over the meeting to do all the talking. That is one reason why many people attend such sessions for the sake of it and don’t really invest much of their thoughts. When you get the attendees to take on the wheel, they would have to think on their feet and often they may come up with some very interesting solutions to the existing problems. Get your audience to be attentive and proactive by allowing them to steer the meeting ahead. You should still preside but give them the leeway and the significance.
Meetings should never start on a somber note. Whenever there is some disappointment or some sad facts, even if they are reality checks necessary for the audience, they would tend to distance the attendees from the issues at hand. Create an ambience that is welcoming and a little heartening, even if things are bad. Even the worst situations can be fought with a smile on the face or without making the attendees feel miserable about their abilities.