Great meetings include certain, repeatable characteristics. A high level of participation frequently indicates the opportunity for a great meeting. What encourages participation?

We share select characteristics with you through the sequence they would occur in a well-conducted meeting; namely the beginning, the middle, and the end. The following is not meant to be exhaustive, as supporting detail is found in other blogs. However, we find the following to rank among the most important items for inciting high levels of meeting participation and collaboration.

The Middle (aka During the Meeting) Phase

Line of Site

Line of Site

Nobody wants more meetings. They want results. Presumably the results they seek will have an impact on the quality of their lives. If the session leader can quantify the impact of the meeting on the personal wallets in the room, participation is guaranteed to increase. Conversely, if the participants are disengaged, unsure about the meeting purpose, its deliverable, or subsequent impact; their attention will be diverted to email, tardiness, and other means of non-productive behavior. As session leader, make the line of site between the contribution of your participants and the impact of the meeting deliverable, crystal clear. One way to capture this expression is by asking, “What is at risk if this meeting fails?” Rather than claiming your meeting is “important”, prove it—typically by expressing its worth in currency or FTE (ie, Full Time Equivalents)

Breakout Sessions

Using breakout sessions gives everyone permission to speak freely. When they assemble in smaller teams, they are better able to have intimate conversations with fewer people. They discover that they are not a “lone” voice giving them increased confidence to speak on behalf of “our team”. Rarely does a breakout team fail to discuss everything it developed during its break-out session. Make sure you are creative and thoughtful in your assignments, rather than 1-2-3. Appoint a CEO for each team (ie, chief easel operator). Consider when to use homogeneous teams that think alike versus heterogeneous teams that tend to think differently.

Non-verbal Solicitation

Actively seek and beseech participant input with open hands and eye contact. Let them know that you want to ensure that their input is not lost at critical and appropriate moments. Give them confidence that you will protect them by separating the value of their message from their personality. Emphasize that the facilitator protects the people first and then secures participants’ input secondarily, because the content gathered is being assembled to serve the people, not the other way around.

Reinforce During Breaks

Constantly remind them (in private) that their input is important and valued. Reinforce your role as protector and ask them if they have avoided making a contribution when, perhaps, they should have spoken. Ask them if there is anything else that you can do, as facilitator, to make it easier for them to provide input.

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The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

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14 Comments

  1. You hit the nail on the head with Nobody wants more meetings – they want results. Making meetings work well is a very worthwhile endeavor. Thanks.

  2. Pingback: A Meeting Participants’ Credo « Facilitative Leadership & Facilitator Training

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