The title of this post is called "How to start a meeting", but it's useful in the middle of a meeting too. And for this, anytime even two people meet, it's a meeting!
Of course it's most effective at the beginning, where it can do the most good. But I've forgotten more than once and "recovered" by stopping and going through the steps -- sometimes steps 3 and 4 alone are enough when mid-meeting.
Basically, you want to interact at a level of interaction that promotes sharing and the free exchange of ideas. This requires that you get out of the mode of "problems, survival, and head-elsewhere" and into the mode of "constructive interaction".
It's easy to do, really. While there are several methods, the most straightforward is to:
1) Notice something about the room. [Note: The act of noticing is a choice that you make!] You can also notice something or someone in room. This needs to be something that you genuinely notice.
2) Say something about it. Some...