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Meeting and workshop participants by definition ought be participatory. To get and stay involved, subject matter experts (ie, SMEs or participants) need motivation to both show up (or attend) and to actively contribute over the course of a meeting.

The role of facilitator or session leader mandates the need to link value from their participation to the greater good, and in return HOW the individuals will benefit, also known as persuasion.

Individual Motivation to Embrace Organizational Goals (aka, Persuasion)

Avoid a Gun to the Head as Motivation

The three classic forms of persuasion include:

  1. Internalization (indicative of the will or the WHY of a meeting),
  2. Identification (indicative of the wisdom or the WHAT of a meeting), and
  3. Forced Compliance (indicative of the activity or the HOW of a meeting)


The most powerful, long-lasting, and effective form of motivation occurs when their meeting contributions result in personal gain. To internalize suggests an individual that can associate their input with the meeting output. And the meeting output ultimately generates a return on their investment of time and energy.

When the facilitator can demonstrate that the meeting output (ie, deliverable) demonstrably affects the quality of life of a participant, how much money they will make, who they will work for, who will work for them, or equally powerful factors, they have internalized the need for participation.

Participants that can link the group goal back to their own lives, such as developing line of sight toward some extrinsic gain such as increased income or more balanced workload, they view their existing competencies and potential contributions as a validation of their time and energy. To the extent that their contributions positively impact the deliverable, their participation in meetings increases dramatically.

The facilitator ought make clear the value of their contributions and strive to quantify the financial risk if the meeting fails. Typically risk may be expressed in financial units (eg, dollars) or labor values (ie, FTE or full-time equivalent). If the facilitator cannot link individual contributions to some measurable value, meeting participation will likely be dominated by the participants that can internalize the value of their contributions, at the expense of other participants who remain less clear about how they will be impacted by the meeting deliverable. One could view internalization as the ability to apply SMART principles by quantifying value, creating valid objectives for subject matter experts.


A less effective and less sustaining form of motivation or persuasion develops from fuzzier or qualitative form of motivation. In modern society, the analogy is advertising. To the extent that participants identify with meeting goals, the more likely they contribute. They also make their contribution more frequent and robust.

Charismatic session leaders can frequently persuade with their personality styles because participants can identify with their passion and exuberance. Identification represents an extrinsic form of motivation, rather than the intrinsic form obtained through internalization.

Successful persuasion occurs when the larger group (eg, the entire organization) links back to the smaller team (ie, meeting participants). When the team is viewed as successful by the organization, they are also viewed as successful individuals. Participants feel or believe that the organization will positively view their personal competencies based on performance of the team.

Forced Compliance

A valid analogy to understand forced compliance develops when one views a “gun to their head.” In other words, do it or you will be harmed. Forced Compliance best describes the motivation of most people attending “staff” meetings. They really don’t want to go, but risk penalty or even termination if they fail to appear.

While a powerful motivator to attend, forced compliance does little to increase participation. In fact, most people with a gun to their head will say or contribute little. Strive to avoid this form of motivation, because if it is required to get people to attend, most likely the meeting is not necessary in the first place.

Leaders that rely on forced compliance are not thinking clearly. They need to revisit internalization and establish line of sight for the participants, so that each participant can approximate the true value of their attendance and contributions.


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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