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How to Encourage Participation in Meetings - 5 Powerful Ways

A group having a meeting in the office
The Robin Team
Published on

You've booked your conference room and everyone's shown up, but that doesn't guarantee participation in the meeting. 

One question runs through your mind: how can you encourage participation in a meeting?

Next time you feel like you’re talking to a wall in your meeting, put some (or all) of these 5 tactics of buy-in to the test. You’ll boost meeting participation and set the tone for collaboration across the office.

  1. Be smart about how you schedule and prep the meeting to keep meeting participants focused and get their buy-in - especially for a virtual meeting.
  2. Use tools of engagement to spark your attendees’ commentary.
  3. Organize your meetings to accommodate the hybrid workforce
  4. Plan to negotiate so people join in on the back and forth during team meetings.
  5. Drive to the final decision or outcome smoothly so meeting participants are on board.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

1. Prepare for The Session to Keep Meeting Participants Focused

Time of day: Shoot for scheduling during mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Hold your meetings before 9 in the morning and people will be too grumpy or tired to participate. Schedule them right after lunch and they’ll fall asleep. Book them after 4 and folks will watch the clock.

Length of the meeting: Keep it short. A meeting that needs more than an hour will create rumblings among the masses. Divide the meeting content into short units of time. The longer you stay with one idea, the more likely you’ll lose people. Before they yawn, move on.

Physical State: Hold a walking or standing meeting so people are physically more engaged with their surroundings. Not every meeting will run most effectively in a standard meeting room. With more hybrid workers, you need to ensure your tech is ready and loaded to go. Nothing slows a meeting down quite like technical difficulties. 

Remember to always keep your remote workers and flexible staff in mind, long gone are the days of strictly in-office meetings. Get creative and experiment with different areas around the office and triple-check what resources are in each room.

Attendees: Does every colleague you invited actually need to be there? Oftentimes meetings have far too many people. Designate who the core stakeholders are and start with them. Then decide if you need the extra layer of advisors/consultants. Lastly, if anyone is there as more of an FYI -- consider reaching out to them via email or Slack and save them from another meeting.

Set the rules of engagement: Come up with a meeting agenda for your team meeting in advance and share that via your email or calendar invite beforehand, or as soon as the meeting begins. If you’re looking specifically for how to improve team meetings, let every team member be responsible for a different portion of the meeting and make those roles clear ahead of time.

Practice what you’re going to preach: Type up what you’re going to say before you get in there. Then, try to remove as much verbiage as possible and translate any jargon into human speech. Buzzwords are draining.

2. Use Tools for Engagement to Spark Meeting Participation

Have others contribute to the meeting content: By including others in deciding what will be discussed, they will take ownership of their part. Even after their segment of the meeting is done, the pump will be primed for them to continue to contribute. 

Regularly ask for input and invite questions: Provide opportunities for people to speak up. By asking questions, you direct their attention to a specific idea and focus their thinking. This will naturally facilitate conversation throughout the meeting.

Give credit where credit is due: Pay attention to team member's contributions, and reward those who contribute to the conversation. Others will take note and feel inspired to share their own ideas.

3. Organize Meetings to Accommodate Hybrid Work

Invest in the right technology: Businesses should always be equipped to handle a mix of in-office and remote workers. If you haven’t already, investing in the right technology will be crucial for meeting participation. If you know some conference rooms are notoriously unreliable, make sure to choose the right space with strong wifi and the right equipment.

Make an active effort to engage virtual participants: It’s easy to default to the people physically in front of you. With an increasingly flexible workforce, you need to remember to get equal input from those tuning in via video call. Try turning your attention to the camera while speaking. We guarantee you’ll be making those on the call feel more included in the meeting and less like observers.

Don’t hold side conversations while someone is talking: If you think it’s hard to hear the speaker while others chatter then you can imagine how annoying it is for video attendees. Only one person should be talking at a time and that person should be sure to position themselves near the speaker.


4. Plan to Discuss, Not Dictate

Take on the least important issues first: Get people to participate in the meeting negotiations by priming them with minor topics early on. Once you move to bigger items, they will be in their negotiating groove. Actively encouraging participation keeps the meeting moving forward and productive

Keep your information handy: Be ready to field questions in your meeting. While you might be able to answer most of them off the top of your head, you may need to depend on resources, too. If you’re able to answer questions quickly and fully, you’ll be better able to move the meeting forward.

Be ready to compromise: In negotiations, a hardliner who won’t budge can stop progress in its tracks. Before you begin the discussion, let people know that compromise will be part of the process. Negotiation is the art of give and take. Show people you’re ready to give a little and they’ll do the same.

5. Drive the Decision Making Process When Needed

Take a vote: If you think that the room isn’t split go for a majority vote. A vote will invite everyone to participate in the meeting equally.

Offer only a few choices: If there aren’t many ideas to choose between, decisions happen faster. You’ll also create less cognitive load (the space in our brains we can dedicate to a particular choice) by having fewer options.

Employee Experience is Key to Meeting Success

Having an engaging meeting starts with considering the employee experience. How can you streamline meetings? How can you encourage participation? How can you give your employees a voice?

Booking your meeting room is only the beginning. Collaboration and engagement is only 5 steps away - what are you waiting for?

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