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Tips for encouraging discussions at meetings

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Sometimes staff meetings are lively and eventful, others you feel like you are talking to a bunch of tin men. If you are having trouble getting active participants in staff meeting discussions, there are a few ideas that might help.

Here are some tips for getting your staff more involved in your discussions at meetings.

  • Have the meeting setting informal. If it is more casual then you are going to appeal to more people on your staff. Let them dress down if it is an after hours meeting, let them take off their shoes if it is in the boardroom during the day. This gets them more relaxed and helps them open up.
  • Let them know about the meeting in advance and let them come up with ideas. Give them the topic of the meeting and what to expect, also let them know that you expect ideas from them.
  • Put them in charge of something, for instance, if you want a lively discussion about how to improve the break room, put together a committee in charge of that and let them be in charge of the meeting.
  • Sometimes management can be intimidating, so consider stepping out of the room and leaving a supervisor or lower level employee in charge for just a few minutes. They might be able to get the others opened up and then when you come back the ideas will already be flowing and discussion will already be going.
  • Let them know that when a resolution has been made or the problems have been addressed that there will be food at the end. Food is always a great motivator, especially if it is just about lunch time. But employees should know that you can't adjourn until things have been accomplished.
  • Put out a suggestion box before the meeting. Give people a chance to leave their ideas anonymously before the meeting so that they don't have to be embarrassed to suggest them in front of everyone else. Go through what was found in the suggestion box and let that spark other ideas.
  • As a manager, don't come in with a list of ideas. Even if you do have your own ideas, leave them behind. Let the employees lead the meeting and it might head towards some creative discussions that end up as great ideas for the company.
  • Don't be a critic. If an idea comes up that is bad, or even terrible, don't dismiss it. Talk it out and even if it is decided against thank the person for their suggestions. Saying something personal about the idea will turn off that employee and many others from ever making another suggestion.
  • Have a jar of random topics that need to be discussed and let employees pick what is brought up next. It is completely unconventional, which is why it just might work for you. It gives the meeting a little excitement and the element of surprise.
  • Talk to your leaders, upper and lower management, and let them know you concerns. They might be able to spark conversation and open up discussions. They work much more closely with employees and they might know something that is the golden ticket.
  • Try a different setting for your meeting. If you always use the same place, change it up. Maybe the writers block doesn't extend past those walls, a new environment might get people thinking differently. Go outside and have a meeting on the grass or sit on the floor instead of at a table. Be creative, it's ok.

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Posted by DF
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