5 Tips for Encouraging Participation in meetings

Every business has numerous meetings or training sessions and ensuring that enough people participate actively in these is one of the meeting leader’s primary responsibilities. By  Mark McCormack Business Development Manager, HRzone.

However, encouraging participation in meetings can be tricky for some meeting leaders. But there is really no excuse for running a meeting where a few people dominate or in which half the group sits in silent withdrawal!

So with all this in mind, I wanted to give 5 Top Tips to Encourage Active Involvement in your Meetings.

1. Clarify the topic

At the start of any session, make sure that everyone is clear about the purpose of the meeting by:

  • Reviewing what created the need for the meeting so everyone understands the history.
  • Sharing any background information.
  • Stating the goal of the session and your role as meeting leader or facilitator.

2. Create ‘buy-in’

People at work can sometimes be very cynical these days, so it’s especially important to check with your group to determine if any of the following harsh realities are going to be a factor :

  • They’re very busy and would rather be elsewhere.
  • These meetings generate action and extra work which no one wants.
  • The organisation may not support the ideas generated – priorities could shift tomorrow.
  • A feeling that the improvements gained will only benefit the organisation, not me!

3. Set-up for Participation

How you arrange a room will significantly affect how the group members will feel and interact.

Theatre style seating is the worst possible arrangement for facilitating active discussion.

Large boardroom tables have an especially stifling effect on people.

If you have to work with either of these, break participants into pairs, trios or foursomes as often as possible to keep everyone engaged and talking.

If you have any choice in the matter of seating, select a large room and try to gets small, modular tables.

Small rectangles arranged in a large horseshoe for whole group sessions or smaller squares for small group discussions are best.

Place several flipchart stands either around or in the corners of the room.

4. Break into small groups

If the group has more than 10 participants, break into small groups of not more than six per group.

People can then sit in their small groups, even when the whole group is in session.

Small groups always help break the ice and create a more private, open and honest forum for discussions.

5. Use props

Other than a flipchart or whiteboard, try to introduce different ways that participants can gather and collect their ideas together.

Useful props to add variety include :

  • Post-it notes or postcards- use different colours and shapes.
  • Stickers and sticky dots.
  • Sheets of parcel wrapping paper taped to the wall.
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