How to Help Your Meeting Participants Become Better Listeners


The facilitator is ideally situated to help meeting participants become better listeners. Dr Ralph Nichols, “Father of the Field of Listening”, notes three behaviors that perfectly align with the roles of facilitator, and you ought exhibit to amplify listening during meetings.

One is to anticipate the speaker’s next point
. As facilitator, your anticipation helps shape your direction. For example, should you be walking closer to the speaker or to the facilitator’s easel to capture their comments? As meeting participants,if they anticipate correctly, learning has been reinforced. If they anticipate incorrectly, they wonder why and this helps to increase attention.

Another is to identify the supporting elements a speaker uses in building points. Here is the primary role of the facilitator, to help extract the most significant contributions. Next ensure that the supporting elements are captured and recorded, preferably on a facilitator’s easel, so that all the meeting participants can view the same information.

Build understanding among your participants about supporting their thoughts, or as we say in the FASTcurriculum “Make Your Thinking Visible.” Typically speakers rely on three methods to build points:

Better Listening

  1. They explain the point,
  2. They get emotional and harangue the point, or
  3. They illustrate the point with a factual illustration.

A sophisticated listener knows this. He or she spends a little of the differential between thought speed and speaking speed to identify what is being used as point-supporting material. This behavior becomes highly profitable in terms of listening efficiency.

A third way to improve the listening skills of your participants is to periodically make summaries of the points that have been recorded. Good listeners take advantage of short pauses to summarize and absorb what has been said. Periodic summaries reinforce learning tremendously.

Most of us are poor listeners for a variety of reasons. We have had little training and few training opportunities exist (although the FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership class is a significant exception). We think faster than others speak. Plus, listening is hard work and requires complete concentration. It is a challenge to be a good listener, but good listeners get big rewards.

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).

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About Facilitative Leader & Instructor
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.

3 Responses to How to Help Your Meeting Participants Become Better Listeners

  1. Pingback: 15 Fun and Quick Tips to Help You Become a More Successful Facilitative Leader « Facilitative Leadership & Facilitator Training

  2. Pingback: How to Facilitate Group or Team Decision-Making Using a “Pros and Cons” Tool « Facilitative Leadership & Facilitator Training

  3. Pingback: Problems Encountered in Meetings by Other Facilitators and Some Suggestions | Facilitative Leadership & Facilitator Training

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