August 15, 2011 | Barb Carr

Career Development: Encourage Balanced Participation at Meetings

Do you feel there are two or three employees who dominate every meeting?  Are eye rolls a common workout routine at your company  meetings? Oh … wait, maybe eyes aren’t rolling. Because. They. Are. Shut.  Everyone is lulled to sleep by the familiar sound of the same voices over and over and over …

Don’t let your next meeting sound like this Charlie Brown classroom scene:

Meeting facilitators can encourage more balanced participation among the staff.  Here are four simple ways to conduct a more productive meeting:

1.  Encourage active listening. Open the meeting by setting simple ground rules, that one person speak at a time, and that each speaker proceeds uninterrupted until he or she is finished speaking.

2.  Make eye contact with each speaker, and address each speaker by name. “Thank you for your input, Debbie.”  “David, did you have something to add?”

3.  Watch body language around the table. Being aware of non-verbal communication is a simple way to identify employees who want to participate, but feel frustrated because they keep getting cut off.

4.  Remain neutral until all points are presented. Providing feedback after each person speaks may intimidate others from speaking.  You may miss some very good ideas if you don’t wait until everyone has a chance to speak.

Encouraging balanced participation at meetings builds morale, a spirit of cooperation and gives those who aren’t naturally outspoken an opportunity to contribute to the good of the company.  Practicing these skills will help you become a valued and respected meeting facilitator.

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