Meetings are valuable because they encourage communication, providing a place for team members to get a say. However, when attendees don’t get this chance, they might walk away feeling like the meeting was a waste. Unfortunately, certain scenarios can make people uncomfortable speaking up.
THE CONVERSATIONAL MONOPOLY
If one or two individuals dominate the discussion, moderators can pose a question to open up the field. A simple, “Does anyone agree or disagree with Mike?” creates a space for people—other than Mike—to jump in. A “show of hands” vote is another great tool when you suspect people might disagree with Mike, but aren’t speaking up.
THE GLASS HALF-EMPTY APPROACH
Some individuals approach new ideas by finding all the ways the plan might fail. Identifying shortcomings is necessary when a project is in development, but during a brainstorming session, it’s a quick way to make people feel frustrated and unmotivated. Who wants to share an idea only to have it shut down? It’s a common structure in creative workshops to begin feedback with positive comments. The positive-first approach sends the message that listeners think the speaker’s viewpoint is valid. Additional comments then appear constructive rather than disparaging.
THE CONFIDENCE TRAP
In 1837, Hans Christian Andersen published “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” a tale where con-men sell the Emperor clothing that is supposedly invisible to those lacking intelligence. In reality, there was no suit, but nobody spoke up in fear that others would think them too dumb to see the clothes—which led to the Emperor parading down the street naked.
A similar phenomenon can take place in meetings: nobody wants to ask for clarifications in fear of being seen as incompetent. However, if you have been paying attention throughout the meeting and still don’t understand what is being said, the fault is likely not yours. Others around you might be feeling the same way. Attendees can stay engaged in a meeting (and help others stay engaged as well) by asking questions. Moderators can also help by defining common terms at the beginning and bringing the discussion back on point when it strays into technical expertise areas where most won’t be able to follow.
Meetings are a tool for communication. If the message isn’t clear for all attendees, then the meeting is falling short in crucial areas.
Meetings are one of the most valuable tools companies have at their disposal. They facilitate communication, build relationships, encourage collaboration, and humanize organizations that are becoming increasingly reliant on technology. Nevertheless, meetings are not a free resource.
Not only do poor meetings have financial consequences, they also greatly impact employee engagement and productivity.
Ensure that all meetings have a clear purpose, prepare a detailed agenda, keep groups small, and limit distractions. This will help you optimize your meetings, ensuring that nobody walks out of the room feeling like the whole exercise was a waste of valuable time.
For even more information on maximizing your team’s meetings, check out our free eBook – available now on our website!