Pardon the expression, but they say that a leopard cannot change his or her spots. You are not going to convert quiet people into aggressive extroverts who dominate a meeting. However, there are simple steps that you can take to increase the velocity of contributions from quiet people.
Interview Your Participants, Especially Quiet People
It is so important, especially with quiet people, to establish a connection before the meeting. When you speak with participants in advance, transfer ownership of the deliverable by establishing the importance of their contribution. Emphasize the roles in a workshop, especially the protection of participants provided by the facilitator.
Break-out Sessions Draw Out Quiet People
Using break-out sessions gives quiet people permission to speak freely. When they assemble in smaller teams, they are better able to have a conversation with fewer people than needing to speak to a larger group. They discover that they are not a “lone” voice giving them increased confidence to speak on behalf of “our team,” when otherwise they might remain quiet.
Non-verbal Solicitation Helps Quiet People Contribute
Actively seek and beseech the input of quiet people with open hands and eye contact. Let quiet people know in advance that you understand their meek nature. Use your eyes and hands to solicit input, especially at critical and appropriate moments. Therefore, you intend to approach quiet people with non-verbal signals to encourage their participation, with the absolute 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 because the content gathered serves the people, not the other way around.
Reinforce During Breaks
Constantly remind quiet people (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 quiet people if there is anything else that you can do, as facilitator, to make it easier for them to provide input.
Other Support for Quiet People
Consider other steps when all else fails. Instead of a spoken round-robin, ask everyone to write down their ideas on Post-It notes or other paper. Therefore, they can contribute their ideas anonymously. Consider asking a confederate (ie, another participant) to encourage participation by specifically referring to the quiet person, stating that they “would like to here Meek’s opinion.” And finally, please add your discoveries and comments below for the benefit of others.
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.
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- How to Facilitate Brainstorming (mgrush.com/blog)
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