Meetings can stink. But that doesn't mean they have to!
Gathering together a group of people can be powerful if we use that time to engage everyone's brains and build off of one anothers ideas. We each come in with our own strong perspectives, and it's when we meld the best of our ideas with the best of someone else's ideas....
POW! Meeting magic.
The problem? Not all groups are naturally interactive. If you'd like to see more participation in your group meetings, here are three facilitation techniques you can try.
1. Begin with a convening question.
Having a topic for your meeting can feel a bit flat. Instead, turn that topic into a question that you would liek the group to answer. A question is like a funnel. It focuses the group's energy and invites the sharing of opinions.
Sample Convening Question: Are we on track to achieve our annual goals?
2. Call on people.
You can do this individually of course, and the trick is not to make it a kind of grade-school dynamic where you are calling someone out. Instead, try "NAME, we have not heard from you yet. What are you thinking?" Some people like to be invited to speak. Not all of us are natural jump-in types.
You can also do a "round robin" where you go around the room and hear from each person on a topic. This is a great way to seed the conversation with a variety of ideas before narrowing things down.
3. Break into small groups.
Conversation in the full group can be great. But there are two downsides to a large group conversation.
Time - When everyone is talking in the same space and time, it adds up. In a group of ten, if each person gets just two minutes of airtime, that is twenty minutes gone.
Singular Focus - A conversation follows a certain narrative flow. Think of it like a river. It can be hard to change the direction of a river. You are having ONE conversation. Small groups allow for multiple parallel conversations, which can create a wider range of ideas.
Small group break-outs allow for faster progress, more air-time per person, and a wider range of ideas being expressed. (Have small groups report out a summary, then blend into a large group conversation.)
These three sound pretty simple I know, but they are the bread and butter of good facilitation. Ask good juicy questions, get people talking, and flex the types of conversations (full group, small group, round robin) around to get the right kind of energy in the room.
One last thing... don't forget that your job as the meeting facilitator isn't to control the outcome of the conversation, it is to ensure that a good quality conversation happens. If your team knows that you are driving them towards some sort of pre-destined answer, they won't play that game. Why should they?
If you have a facilitation technique to encourage more meeting participation, share it in a comment below!
Cheri Baker is the President of Emergence Consulting Seattle