Ask Paul: My question is regarding meetings that are for a larger group of people (15-20) and how to maintain engagement. Do you suggest different strategies than when you are working with a smaller group of people? I plan to buy your book, so if there is a particular chapter you’d recommend I review, that would be helpful information. – Maxine
Dear Maxine, thank you for the question and for purchasing the book. As a start, I’d recommend the chapter on leading meetings, particularly the section beginning on page 151: Creating a quality experience for everyone.
These are the variables that seem to impact engagement:
Keep the room and furniture as close and as intimate as possible. People feel safe and act differently when they are physically close to each other.
Make sure each agenda item warrants the attention of the entire group.
Remind people that even if they don’t have direct involvement in a particular topic, you value their thinking on each one.
Encourage people to listen and help out with the process of the meeting: keeping the conversation on track, inviting people in who haven’t yet spoken, listening for commitments to be captured, and thinking about the best way to wrap-up the conversation.
Manage the conversation for broad participation. Tell people that getting a lot of different voices into each discussion is part of your intent. Ask for permission to call on people to get this level of participation.
Give groups of three or four a chance to chat for six minutes on a topic before opening it up to the larger group when it makes sense to give them time to develop their thoughts as a preparation step for the large group conversation.
Minimize the use of PowerPoint, as this usually leads to less discussion and more distracted attention for people.