Meeting people and organizing a time to get together is a great way to share ideas, make new friends and plan for the future. However, whenever you organize a meeting it is always a challenge to really engage the attendees and get them talking. Without this interaction, a meeting can be boring, unproductive and fall just short of a disaster. So what is the best way to draw people out and get them to be active participants? Consider these ideas:
1. Try to do a bit of pre-meeting planning so individuals know what to expect. This can be done by sending an email to those that have responded to the meeting invite. Ask them to tell you what topics they would like to see covered.
2. Share your own ideas. As the organizer or leader of a meeting, one of the best ways to get people to open up is to be open yourself. If you share your ideas freely, others will be more inclined to follow suit.
3. Ask for their opinions. Some people are just too shy to speak up on their own but they are willing to speak out if asked directly. A lot of times we overlook this little nuance of human behavior. Some folks just need to be invited to speak.
4. Never put down the ideas or suggestions that someone has offered. Their ideas may be different than yours but every idea and opinion has its own value. Criticism, sarcasm and ridicule are sure-fire ways to stop communication.
5. Consider the use of a suggestion box for topics to be covered at future meetings. Sometimes individuals who are too intimidated to contribute within the group will have good ideas to share. A suggestion box allows them to share those ideas in a more subtle manner. If they have identified themselves with the suggestion, be sure to thank them in a positive manner when you bring up their idea, so maybe next time they’ll feel secure enough to share openly with the group.
6. Try not to rush meetings if possible. If the atmosphere is calm, friendly and relaxed, you may get better results. Some people take a little while to become comfortable and willing to participate.
7. As simple as it may seem, if this is a first meeting, name tags are a great idea. This way, as leader of the meeting, you can direct questions or ask suggestions of individuals by name. This automatically makes people feel more at ease in the situation and may result in better communication.
8. Be sure to show appreciation of ideas and input, and thank individuals openly for their contributions.
9. If future meetings are planned, try delegating different tasks to different members that they can bring back to the next meeting, something like a homework assignment. This will not only get people involved with the project, it will also give them time to prepare for presenting what they have found at the next meeting.
10. Make it fun! Dry, dull and boring meetings are not something anyone enjoys!
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