One of the best ways to apply Meeting Guiding Principle #1: Teacher of others and learner from others is to garner participation from as many people as possible. Whether you are leading a small or large group, there will always be some people who participate more actively than others. While you want to encourage that participation, if you want everyone to participate, some of those most active people have to refrain from speaking in order to allow room for everyone to participate. Navigating these situations is never easy and they happen in any setting – whether a coalition workgroup, staff meeting, church group or class discussion. Join me this week for three strategies to practice when you want to apply my favorite meeting guiding principle #2: Everyone Participates.
Set the expectation.
I know it may sound completely obvious, but we often begin our meetings focused on the content of the meeting or the first speaker without setting expectations for how to participate in the meeting. If this is a meeting where you want everyone to participate, then let the group know that is an expectation of the meeting. You can even let them know when you want them to participate based on the flow of the meeting and the agenda. For instance, there are many meetings where I let the group know our purpose and the specific times when it would be great to turn on the camera (during a virtual meeting) so that we can “see” one another. When you communicate that you want everyone to participate in a meeting, you are communicating at least two things: 1. You want to hear from multiple perspectives and 2. You do not want one or two people to dominate the conversation. Sometimes when setting the expectation, you need to add those two additional communication pieces in order to be clear about who “everyone” is in your meeting.
Provide multiple methods for participation.
If you are in-person, one of my favorite strategies to practice (thank you Ryan Soisson for teaching me this method!) is the 1-2-4-All Method of garnering feedback. This allows for you to have everyone think on their own about an answer, then pair up, then move into groups of four and then share with the entire group. By using this method, you are able to garner participation from everyone, including those who are less comfortable with public speaking. In an online setting, another method is to encourage use of the chat feature. You can encourage people to provide comments, questions and engagement by using the chat. This is also a great place to encourage those who have been speaking a lot already to use instead of chiming in again in the conversation directly. Similarly, polls and reactions provide an opportunity for participation without always having to be the one speaking audibly.
Pay attention to who is participating.
If you are the one facilitating the meeting, pay attention to who has had an opportunity to speak and who has not. Yesterday, I participated in a small group discussion as an observer (the instructor). In this group of five participants, three of the five were speaking frequently, one of the participants was occasionally adding her perspective but the fifth participant was not able to speak at all. I noticed that she was paying attention to the conversation but never had an opportunity to provide her perspective because the others were doing all the talking. I began by sending her a direct message to prompt her to use the chat feature. She chose not to use the chat so I decided to interrupt the conversation when there was almost a pause point. I affirmed the wonderful conversation and directly shared that not everyone had a chance to provide their perspectives and specifically asked for her to provide her perspective as well. She was grateful for the opportunity to share and I encouraged the group to continue by including everyone in the rest of the conversation. As much as we don’t want to interrupt, sometimes, we need to stop attendees before they continue talking without including all participants. In this situation, the participant who was not able to participate would have a lower grade as a result of not participating and I wanted to give her an opportunity to engage. In other situations, you may not want to specifically ask someone to speak during the meeting (if it would make them uncomfortable), but you can definitely send her a direct message in the chat or you can make a note to follow up with him after the meeting.
So what about you? Is “Everyone participates” one of your meeting guiding principles? How do you practice this?
If you would like more support as you lead your own meetings, check out one of my free resources, How to Lead your Best Online Meeting Yet.