Get the Best out of Meetings
How can you encourage participation in meetings and why is participation important? Most importantly, participation results in collaboration, shared ideas and solutions. This means you get the best out of meetings and the people involved. In turn, this facilitates productivity, increases efficiency and motivation. A win, win, which results in more effective meetings and a happier workforce.
Certainly, don’t have meetings for the sake of having them. We’ve all been there, sat around a table wondering what it’s all about. Even worse, worrying about our to do list and feeling like the meeting is a complete waste of time. So, what makes an effective meeting? A good meeting is well-thought through. It’s structured; with an agenda that’s sent out in advance. In addition, a nominated person takes on the role of ‘chairperson’. Most importantly, they keep the meeting to time and to the agenda, whilst allowing flexibility for people to share and discuss items. A good chairperson encourages participation throughout. Certainly, they actively listen and make sure everyone has an opportunity to speak. In addition, someone takes some minutes, particularly to record actions that are reviewed at the start of the next meeting.
Encourage Participation in Meetings
To get the best out of meetings, it’s important to encourage participation. For example, introverts tend to be quieter, absorbing information or worrying about their ideas. It’s important to build motivation and confidence. Remember, the quieter people also have valuable insight, but may worry about going first.
When you encourage participation in meetings, you’re also more likely to reach consensus. This is particularly important when you need to make decisions. In this instance, consider what useful information you can provide ahead of the meeting. For example, a case study, presentation slide deck, video, options to choose etc. Most importantly, at the start of the meeting, ensure you inform everyone that participation forms an integral part to decision-making. By doing so, you’re more likely to encourage participation and get the best out of the meeting.
It’s important to acknowledge everyone’s contribution. This can be done in any number of ways. For example, you may ask for clarification or more information. For instance, “please continue, that sounds like an interesting idea”. Alternatively, give praise for something that is a “good point” and indicates that you’re glad someone brought it up. In addition, make non-verbal gestures like eye contact or nod in agreement. These acknowledgments encourage participation, motivate everyone and support more effective meeting management. Most importantly, do not discount anyone’s input.
What does an effective meeting look like? This is open to interpretation, since it may depend on the meeting’s purpose. Certainly, it will depend on everyone being and feeling included. A good technique is to build on the contributions given. For instance, in the case of a concern, help everyone identify with it as a shared concern. You can do this by asking questions like, “how do others feel?” or ”who else feels this way?”. Be careful not to inadvertently single anyone out though. Therefore, it’s good practice to acknowledge that it’s a valid and fair concern. You may not agree completely, but remember that everyone has a voice and may know something you don’t.
Effective meetings also have a clear purpose. For example, objectives or goals, which everyone understands. If there’s no clear purpose or agenda, your meeting is likely to be less productive and effective. “Why”, I hear you ask! Well, think of it like this; how would you feel? For instance, would you feel like it was a waste of your time? Would you feel annoyed that your time was being taken up, when you have several other tasks? For whatever reason, we’ve all been there, feeling the ‘meeting dread’. Therefore, you know the importance of purpose and having a clear and logical agenda, which doesn’t waste anyone’s time.
Most importantly, effective meetings don’t always need to be heavily structured. For example, for projects you might want to consider a daily stand up meeting. These are used to keep project staff up-to-date and highlight any risks that need attention. With these types of meetings, allocate up to 3-minutes per person. Everyone has their fair share of time to provide a quick update. In addition, whether there are specifics that require a decision.
Tips to Encourage Participation in Meetings
Addressing Silence to Get the Best out of Meetings
At the start of meetings, remember to warm everyone up. You can start with a quick check-in (and at the end of meetings; a check-out) ‘round robin’ so everyone is included and participates.
Most importantly, silence is a key indicator that something else is going on. It’s important you encourage participation to get the best out of meetings. A lack of participation can often be a cultural issue. Therefore, make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable to participate.
Certainly, address silence to see what is holding people back. It may be that people need a little warming up to encourage participation. However, it could also be down to worry. For instance, worry about getting into trouble for speaking out. Therefore, it’s important to promote openness and honesty and quash any fears of retribution.
Whilst making decisions in a meeting, it’s important to address silence. For example, a simple way to address this is by asking the question; “does this mean you all agree?”. This opens up dialogue and hopefully, it quickly encourages participation.
Further Support & Reading
In addition, the below reading list is provided to support this blog post:
- Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler and Stephen R. Covey
- How to Manage Meetings by Alan Barker
- How to Run a Meeting by Anthony Jay