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How to Increase Participation in Meetings

Copyright Carter McNamara, Authenticity Consulting, LLC

Sections in this Topic Include

Meeting Preparation and Opening

During the Meeting

During the Meeting Closure

Note that the reader might best be served to first read the topic Group Dynamics to understand the basic nature of most groups and their typical stages of development.

This document is focused especially on how to accomplish full participation in meetings. It is not necessarily a checklist on how to design and conduct meetings, including the physical aspects of meetings.

Meeting Preparation and Opening

Much of what supports the active participation of group members lies in how the meeting is designed and managed.

  1. Design an agenda that specifies the purpose of the meeting, benefits to members, location, topics and timing. Distribute it to potential attendees for their review.
  2. Considering meeting offsite. This minimizes interruptions and members’ preoccupation with their day-to-day activities.
  3. At the beginning of each meeting, get them involved early. For example, include introductions or do a brief “check in” from each member.
  4. Have people share information about themselves. This is usually easier to talk about and initially they may be more motivated to talk about themselves than planning.
  5. Have each member state what he or she wants from the meeting. Ask each member of the group to help others achieve their goals for the meeting. Post a sheet of each person’s wants. Review this list at the end of the meeting.
  6. If a member is absent from a meeting, acknowledge who is missing and find out why.
  7. Review ground rules, including the ground rule that “everyone participates.”

During the Meeting

Consider some or all of the following in any order:

  • Use break-out groups, or small groups, to increase attention and participation among members. Be sure to provide specific directions about what the groups are to accomplish and by when. Have a spokesperson for the small group.
  • If the facilitator feels the group is in a lull, he or she should say so, and then ask the group if they agree and what they can do to get out of the lull.
  • Allow time for individual thinking and taking notes.
  • Build in physical movement periodically throughout the meeting.
  • Bring in some jokes or cartoons and share them at different times. Be careful not to offend members who might misinterpret the humor as being insensitive.
  • Post the mission, vision and/or values statements of the organization(s) or group(s) on the walls where the meeting is held to remind people of why they are there.
  • Do a Round-Robin about the current topic, asking each person what he or she thinks about the current activity or topic.
  • Specifically address the quiet people, for example, mention, “We haven’t heard from you yet.” However, do not push people who seem reluctant to speak.
  • For some groups, it might help to have each person bring an object and share it with the group as an initial icebreaker. This can increase personal involvement, trust and confidentiality.
  • Ask lots of questions for the group to answer.
  • Use a variety of aids to ensure all learning styles are considered, such as spoken, visual and kinesthetic. This is important to keep members with varying styles equally engaged.
  • Share facilitation roles. Let someone else facilitate as you take the time to record, organize and prepare information.

During the Meeting Closure

Recognize and document results at the end of each meeting. This shows progress, promotes satisfaction and cultivates fulfillment among members.

Within a week after the end of the meeting, have the meeting recorder (documenter) issue meeting minutes, including major actions and assignments from the meeting.

Also consider
The following are group-based methods.
Action Learning
Board Committees
Committees
Communities of Practice
Conflict Management
Dialoguing
Facilitation
Focus Groups
Group Coaching
Group Conflict Management
Group Dynamics (about nature of groups, stages of group development, etc)
Group Learning
Group-Based Problem Solving and Decision Making
Large-Scale Interventions
Meeting Management
Open Space Technology
Self-Directed and Self-Managed Work Teams
Team Building
Training and Development
Virtual Teams

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Library's Leadership Blog
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Library's Team Performance Blog


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