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Increasing Meeting Participation

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If you feel like your meetings are not productive enough because people won’t or can participate, the people in your meetings are unprepared or after meeting conversation are bigger then the meeting itself, the problem might lie in your preparation. What follows are some ideas about ways you can ensure inclusion.

Some easy remedies for meetings and ensuring inclusion:

Ask your people what they want to know, hear, or be a part of, that will satisfy their need for inclusion. If you want to get the most from the introverts in your group, share an agenda in advance. As an introverted leader, I know how frustrating it can be when someone invites me to a meeting and doesn’t tell me how to ‘bring my smarts’.

I had a client who neglected to provide an agenda to me every time a meeting was set up and it made my job more difficult. If that client had given me the reason to attend the meeting with time to consider the topic, my participation would have been much higher. It would have benefited both of us. The client’s style and expectation for me was that I would be quick and smart.

Because of my introversion, smart is more a product of time than spontaneity. I had a sinking feeling every time the client’s ID came up on my phone.

meeting participationAs the leader of the meeting, watch for balanced discussion but don’t just ask an introvert a question out of the blue to pull them in, thinking that you are being a thoughtful and inclusive extrovert. While you may think you are being kind to include them, you may paralyze them, possibly embarrass them, and potentially push them further into their little cocoon. 

As an alternative method, which will endear you to the introverts in the group, mention that you want to hear from everyone.

Be specific about the question you would like to ask such as, “I would like to circle back around in a bit to include everyone on the topic of customer interaction suggestions.” This will give everyone a chance to consider their thoughts and perhaps write down a couple of points they might like to share.

Ask everyone in the meeting to listen to the rhythm of the discussion and respect each other by listening. When they speak up, make sure you give them the time and appreciation of small encouragers such as, “That is interesting, please tell us more” or, “Thank you for adding value to the discussion.”  

The simple act of encouragement to speak and subsequent acknowledgement of each contribution will make all participants more likely to speak up in future meetings. 

 

A little consideration of people 

Invite people to a segment of the meeting to share their expertise or insight on a specific topic or question. If Bob is scheduled from 10:15 to 10:30 and you are ready to include Bob at that moment in the agenda, you can then give him the courtesy to decide how to best use his time and return to his other responsibilities.

Get this one right and I promise, Bob and everyone else will look more favorably upon your meeting invitations. People are often invited to meetings out of courtesy or because at some point they might feel disappointed or left out if they are not included.

When most managers are asked what percentage of time they need to be at a particular meeting, they will likely respond with the candid assessment that they only need to attend a minimal percentage of the meeting, generally about 20%. Ask entry level folks what percentage of time they need to be at the same meeting and the responses will differ significantly. Most say they want to learn everything that is going on and would prefer to stay for the duration of the meeting.

It really speaks to our high level of regard for our coworkers that we offer an option. People won’t feel left out or dismissed if they are given the option for a brief and timely appearance or to remain for the entire meeting. It will make your meetings more successful if you show respect for people’s time and other duties and allow them to make choices.  

Cover your butt and theirs also...

Follow up every meeting with accountabilities and assignments from the meetings. This is important for successful outcomes and follow ups can slip through the cracks far too often.

Ask for help if you are the organizer and balance this work fairly, not only assigning responsibilities to those high performers who are quick to volunteer and already have many tasks to fulfill. 

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ralph

Ralph Twombly
Priority Learning
Owner/Facilitator


In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.

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