Ten Ways to Increase Group Participation in Team Meetings
Leaders have found that meetings where team members openly communicate on business topics and participate in problem solving yields better results than those where people sit and listen. There are different levels of participation in meetings; the most desirable is a fully interactive environment. Voting in a meeting to make decisions is a level of participation, but consensus decisions or compromise building results in more active involvement. Where meetings require increased participation, there are a few things a leader can choose from in order to increase group participation and member involvement.
- Get their input on agenda topics prior to the meeting. This can be done outside the meeting by sending the proposed agenda in an email asking for comments or with a phone call to each person after it is sent. Another way to get their inputs is to always plan the next meeting agenda together at the end of each meeting.
- Encourage active participation by writing it into the team’s ground rules. Jointly creating ground rules and posting them at all meetings will emphasize the need for complete involvement.
- Use short icebreakers or team-building exercises at the beginning of the meetings to get people talking right away. Icebreakers help team members to get to know each other and increase comfort levels. Group or paired exercises can be related to a problem within the team to overcome or to the primary topic of the meeting.
- Always explain the purpose of the meeting and tell members and how it affects them or their job. This helps the meeting meet the “what’s in it for me” question and encourages their aid to accomplish the best results in the meeting.
- When doing idea generation in the meeting, always use the round robin brainstorming technique. This technique insures everyone takes turns contributing until most people begin to run out of ideas.
- Create a safe respectful environment for open exchange of ideas and opinions. One way to do this is to never allow belittling of a person’s questions or input – everyone can add value even the devil’s advocate.
- Use structured activities or processes when problem solving to focus everyone on equally participating. This includes taking visible notes of what is said during the meetings because seeing their thoughts captured lets members know their contributions are valued and encourages others to build upon things they see and hear in the meeting.
- For any meeting topics that warrant discussion, plan extra time to allow everyone 2-3 minutes of talk time each. Be sure to encourage everyone to share thoughts, opinions, pros and cons during the discussion time.
- Consider changing meeting times to wake up the group. If always meeting after lunch, perhaps people are too tired to focus and participate. Whereas if meetings are just prior to lunch, people may be too hungry to think and interact appropriately.
- Ask the group for ideas to make meeting more interactive. Members may have particular exercise they want to try or techniques they have used before that the team may benefit from. Be sure to try some of the different ideas in following meetings.
Consider and choose different ways to increased participation in meetings. Another idea often suggested to increase participation is providing treats or meals during the meetings. Refreshments at a meeting may encourage attendance, but remember attendance does not mean active participation. For active participation in problem solving and decision making, leaders should build an environment where team members feel comfortable communicating and participating.