Meeting Participation Tips (Part 1 of 3—The Beginning)

Great meetings include certain, repeatable characteristics.  A high level of participation frequently indicates the opportunity for a great meeting.  What encourages participation?

We share select characteristics with you through the sequence they would occur in a well-conducted meeting; namely the beginning, the middle, and the end.  The following is not meant to be exhaustive, as supporting detail is found in other blogs.  However, we find the following to rank among the most important items for inciting high levels of meeting participation and collaboration.

 Beginning (aka Preparation) Phase

Meeting results and ownership need to be transferred to the participants from the very beginning.  Optimally, meting participants should review the purpose, scope, and objectives (ie, deliverables) before the meeting begins.  They need to verify that they understand and find them acceptable, or have an opportunity to provide their input to changes something before the meeting begins.  They should also review the method and tools that will be used to ensure that they find the approach sound.  Remember, they will be held responsible for the outcome.

Meeting Participation (Preparation)

A glossary or lexicon should be included in the pre-read or handout so that individuals can refer back to the operational definitions of terms as challenges arise.  People within groups frequently find themselves in violent agreement with each other, and it’s imperative that all the participants agree on what is meant by the terms being used in the purpose, scope, and objectives.  Typically, the glossary should be maintained by the project team, project management office, program office, or strategic center of excellence.  Teams do not normally have time to argue about the difference between a vendor and a contractor or a bill and an invoice.   Unless the definitions are part of the deliverable, they should be determined in advance.

When meetings or workshops are held to support projects, it’s invaluable for participants to know and understand the purpose and objectives of the project, the reason the project was approved (ie, program goals), and the goals and objectives of the mandating organization (ie, the strategic plan of the business unit and/ or enterprise).  Ultimately, all arguments should be resolved by which position best supports reaching the enterprise objectives. Optimally, the meeting room should have large, visible copies of enterprise mission, values, and vision.  Handout material should include the more detailed goals (ie, fuzzy and directional) objectives (ie, specific and SMART).

Biographic sketches of other meeting members can inspire empathy and understanding. With virtual meetings, be certain to include photographs that show the face behind the voice.  If you provide supplemental reading material, strive to customize a cover letter for each participant highlighting the pages or sections upon which they should focus, rather than suggesting they give their entire and equal attention to everything in the handout. Prompt each subject matter expert in advance with the questions that will be raised during the meeting most pertinent to them or their role.  Ask them to focus on those questions since you will turn to them for the first response when the question is raised.

Ultimately the session leader (aka facilitator) is responsible for tying together the relevancy of the issues mentioned above, known as managing the context.  The session leader needs to emphasize the importance of the meeting output to the organization, hopefully expressed in terms of how many financial assets or labor hours (eg, FTE) are at risk if the meting fails.

If the session leader and the participants show up prepared, chances of success are highly amplified. The term ‘facilitate’ means to ‘make easy’ and if you embrace the suggestions above and in the next two blogs, you will see meeting participation substantially increase.  More importantly, you will have properly begun transfer of ownership and responsibility from the solo session leader to the group or team, as it should be.

 Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

About Facilitation Instructor
President of Morgan Madison & Company, through professional and academic endeavors, Terrence has focused on improving group decision-making quality. His experience has proven that: 1. Evidence-based information assures higher quality decisions. 2. Properly managed conflict, provides groups with more “options” to consider —
 and groups with more options have been proven to make higher quality decisions. With a Baccalaureate in Science from Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and a MBA from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, Metz’s core competency has focused on rhetoric: the process of adjusting ideas to people and people to ideas. He is a founding principal partner and president at MG RUSH and a certified Six Sigma Green Belt® from Motorola University. CRC Press, part of Taylor and Francis, publishers since 1798, published his recent book, “Change or Die: Business Process Improvement Manual”. Terrence introduced the concept of holism to the field of structured facilitation as a method for keeping discussions on target and aligning deliverables within and throughout an enterprise. As a public speaker and instructor, he strives to reduce ‘noise’ and ‘distractions’ so that groups and teams can be more successful. Terrence is passionate about using and teaching the FAST Facilitation technique so that people and teams make more informed decisions. He made the FAST technique more robust by adding and enhancing decision-making tools such as PowerBalls and the FAST quantitative SWOT technique that is used worldwide by Fortune 1000 companies. Since 1999, Terrence has taught over three hundred classes.

4 Responses to Meeting Participation Tips (Part 1 of 3—The Beginning)

  1. The DS says:

    brother on the lighter part of corporate ( but still practical side too) car write something on when meetings are hijacked by Sr. Members. :-)

    with regards
    The Deepak Sharma

    • Sincere Reply to The Deepak Sharma and Others,

      From the standpoint of a professional facilitator, there is no secret to being successful during a meeting if you have not adequately prepared. An essential part of optimal preparation includes interviewing your participants and helping them prepare as well. During meetings, in the facilitator’s role, you are no longer playing other roles such as parent, consumer, or vehicle driver—roles that suggest different rules. Likewise, there are no senior or junior members, only meeting participants, through which every voice is equal. Participants must leave there titles in the hallway as they enter the meeting room.

      If they don’t like the concept, then tell them to deliver their answer in advance, because there is not need to have a meeting if there mind is already made up. Meetings are not a good forum for persuasion, and they are very expensive. On the other had, if they do value others’ inputs, then they need to behave like all the other participants in the room, and remove their seniority at the threshold or entry portal to the meeting room. They pick it up on the way out.

      Alternatively, see other prior and future blogs (eg, ) about the holarchy of a meeting and how to create alignment among varying points of view and consider taking the FAST class that makes understanding all this material a lot easier.

      Thanks for your input.

  2. Pingback: How to Honor and Recognize Diversity, Ensuring Meeting and Workshop Inclusiveness « Facilitative Leadership & Facilitator Training

  3. Pingback: Mission or Vision—What is the Difference? « Facilitative Leadership & Facilitator Training

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