Meeting Participation Tips (Part 2 of 3—The Middle)


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.

The Middle (aka During the Meeting) Phase

Line of Site

Line of Site

Nobody wants more meetings. They want results. Presumably the results they seek will have an impact on the quality of their lives. If the session leader can quantify the impact of the meeting on the personal wallets in the room, participation is guaranteed to increase. Conversely, if the participants are disengaged, unsure about the meeting purpose, its deliverable, or subsequent impact; their attention will be diverted to email, tardiness, and other means of non-productive behavior. As session leader, make the line of site between the contribution of your participants and the impact of the meeting deliverable, crystal clear. One way to capture this expression is by asking, “What is at risk if this meeting fails?” Rather than claiming your meeting is “important”, prove it—typically by expressing its worth in currency or FTE (ie, Full Time Equivalents)

Breakout Sessions

Using breakout sessions gives everyone permission to speak freely. When they assemble in smaller teams, they are better able to have intimate conversations with fewer people. They discover that they are not a “lone” voice giving them increased confidence to speak on behalf of “our team”. Rarely does a breakout team fail to discuss everything it developed during its break-out session. Make sure you are creative and thoughtful in your assignments, rather than 1-2-3. Appoint a CEO for each team (ie, chief easel operator). Consider when to use homogeneous teams that think alike versus heterogeneous teams that tend to think differently.

Non-verbal Solicitation

Actively seek and beseech participant input with open hands and eye contact. Let them know that you want to ensure that their input is not lost at critical and appropriate moments. Give them 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 secondarily, because the content gathered is being assembled to serve the people, not the other way around.

Reinforce During Breaks

Constantly remind them (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 them if there is anything else that you can do, as facilitator, to make it easier for them to provide input.

Related articles

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).

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About Terrence Metz
Biographic Sketch — Terrence Metz Since the end of 1999, Terrence Metz has been a founding principal partner and vice president at Morgan Madison & Company. For over twenty years, through professional and academic endeavors, Terrence has focused on improving group decision-making. His experience has proven that two important components to effective group decision-making are: 1. Higher quality information assures higher quality decisions, 2. Properly managed conflict, generates more “options” to consider—
and groups with more options are proven to make higher quality decisions. Terrence is passionate about using and teaching the FAST Facilitative Leadership Training technique so that people and teams make more informed decisions. Terrence is the lead instructor and primary curriculum developer for MG Rush Performance Learning. He earned his Six Sigma Green Belt® from Motorola University and wrote most of the existing FAST curriculum. Terrence 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. He introduced the concept of holism to the field of structured facilitation as a method for keeping discussions on target and aligning deliverables throughout an organization. Since 1999, Terrence has taught over two hundred classes. With a Baccalaureate in Science from Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and a MBA from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on product/ process development and innovation. Terrence has a P&L background in capital goods markets with highly engineered-products and services (eg, Honeywell). He is an expert group facilitator, instructor, and developer of workflow processes and Voice of the Market inputs that accelerate commercial success. His engagements have included strategic development, business planning, problem-solving, continuous improvement, organizational design, process design and improvement, customer cognitivity workshops, and market-based product development and launch. His book "Change or Die: The Business Process Improvement Manual" from CRC Press was published internationally in 2012. Terrence completed additional graduate work in inter-cultural decision-making processes at Marquette University, is a former board member of the Product Development Managers’ Association, and a long-time member of the IAF (International Association of Facilitators), MFNA (Midwest Facilitators Network Association), TMAC (Technology Management Association of Chicago) and WFS (World Future Society). Most importantly, Terrence is an effective listener and equally adept at teaching FAST classes as well as galvanizing consensus around complex issues for organizations and groups.

14 Responses to Meeting Participation Tips (Part 2 of 3—The Middle)

  1. denisedthornton says:

    You hit the nail on the head with Nobody wants more meetings – they want results. Making meetings work well is a very worthwhile endeavor. Thanks.

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