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How to encourage opinion sharing

Meetings are just part of business life. Whether it's to discuss benefits, brainstorm new ideas, or hold a question and answer session about a new product, most-if not all-companies will rely on meetings at some point.

When the focus of the meeting is to brainstorm or discuss something that affects the team as a whole, the opinions of the whole group are valuable and necessary. However, many times is meetings is seems that one or two people will dominate the entire group, making it so the other participants don't get the chance to share their opinions as well.

The following tips will help you to encourage opinion sharing in the workplace and in meetings:
- Establish a set of rules. Setting ground rules is a good place to begin. Your rules should include no interrupting anyone who is speaking in addition to no criticism of ideas (such as "That would never work," or "Horrible idea!")
- Make sure the environment is comfortable. Often, people who are reluctant to speak up do so because they are embarrassed. Encourage all ideas, no matter how wild and crazy they may be.
- Encourage participants to build off each other. Even if one idea doesn't work, encourage the other participants to take the idea and build on it. For example, you could say something like, "We may not have the budget for something that scale right now, but I like the idea. Let's talk about doing it for less." That way, the person sharing their opinion isn't dissuaded from speaking up again.
- Break up into smaller groups. Many people are intimidated from speaking out in front of large groups of people. Instead, break up into several smaller groups and have everyone take notes. All of the opinions and suggestions can be discussed when the groups come back together.
- Provide positive feedback. People are more likely to share when they receive positive feedback for their efforts. - Go around the room. If you are having trouble with a dominating person or people who don't share, you may consider going around the room and having people share their ideas one by one. This is one way to get the discussion moving along at the beginning, and gives everyone a chance to think about what they want to say if they know their turn is coming up.
- Invite people to speak ahead of time. Ask the more quiet or reserved members of your team ahead of time if they would mind sharing a few ideas at the upcoming meeting. This way, they won't feel put on the spot, and the team can benefit from their ideas and opinions.
- Keep the conversations on track. It's a good idea to make an agenda and stick to it. People will be more apt to share their opinions when the meeting is structured and follows a specific outline.

Sometimes, meetings and group discussions become dominated by a vocal individual or two, which can scare off other people from participating. However, by inviting others to participate in group discussions and by providing positive feedback, you can encourage opinion sharing from everyone in your meetings.

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