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.

Good luck,