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How To Get Your Team To Actually Participate In Meetings

We've all been there. You schedule a meeting, gather your team together, and then stare at a sea of blank faces as you try to extract even an ounce of engagement. Like pulling teeth, except with less enthusiasm.

Meetings can be a great opportunity for collaboration and alignment. But when participation is lacking, they become a pointless time-suck. So how can you get your team to actually contribute to the conversation?

Here are 8 tactics to increase meeting participation and make your gatherings more productive. Let's dive in.

1. Set Clear Expectations Upfront

If you want participation during meetings, make sure everyone knows it's required beforehand. Send a meeting agenda listing specific discussion topics and questions. Designate certain sections as interactive. Maybe include a note saying something like:

"Be prepared to share your thoughts on X, Y, and Z. I'm expecting active contributions from everyone in the room."

Setting expectations upfront eliminates awkwardness and makes it clear engaging is not optional. No surprises for your team or excuses for staying silent.

2. Use Entry Tickets

Entry tickets are pre-meeting questions or tasks to prime participation. For example, you might ask everyone to reflect on their top challenge related to the meeting topic. Or have them jot down one original idea to share.

Entry tickets get people oriented to the discussion before arriving. Once there, folks will be eager to voice their pre-planned responses. You can even kick off the meeting by having everyone state their entry ticket assignment. Knocks the dust off any quiet voices right off the bat.

3. Leverage Round Robins

Round robins are a structured way to hear from all attendees. Go around the room and have each person respond to a question in turn. Make it clear everyone must contribute when it's their time. Rotate who starts to prevent the same person from always going first or last. Mix up the direction too. Clockwise, then counter-clockwise.

Round robins give even the most reserved team members a chance to speak up in a low-pressure way. The format makes it impossible for anyone to hog the airtime.

4. Use an Activity or Game

Get people engaged by incorporating an activity or game. For instance, you could debate ideas, brainstorm in small groups, or organize an interactive role play.

Activities make meetings less monotonous. They provide a fun excuse for teammates to interact. And good-natured competition motivates folks to participate.

Choose activities aligned with your meeting objective. The right game makes learning collaborative and sticks concepts in participants' minds.

5. Ask Direct Questions

When you notice someone checking out, call them into the conversation. Ask them a direct question relevant to the current topic. Use their name and stay publicly positive. You might say:

"Jessica, in your experience, what's been the biggest challenge around X? I'd love your thoughts on this."

This pulls wanderers back in without calling them out negatively. When you demonstrate interest in their perspective, it's hard for teammates not to perk up and respond.

6. Talk Less and Listen More

Are you dominating the meeting? Talking too much as the leader suppresses participation. Aim for speaking less than 50% of the time. The rest should be listening and asking questions to prompt input.

Also, try waiting a few seconds after posing a question. Silence gives your team a chance to reflect before replying. Jumping in too quickly cuts off their thought process.

Finally, avoid interrupting or critiquing contributions. This shuts people down. Make it safe to speak by listening actively.

7. Incentivize Engagement

Assign points when someone makes a substantive comment or asks a constructive question. Tally them visibly on a flip chart or whiteboard.

At the end of the meeting, one or two high scorers win a prize. This could be anything from leaving early, choosing the restaurant for the team lunch, or getting a gift card.

A little friendly competition and reward motivates everyone to raise their hand. The focus becomes contributing, not convincing people you're paying attention.

8. Lead by Example

You set the tone for how your team engages during meetings. Participate how you want them to.

Share your own thoughts and ideas. Ask curious questions. Be fully present and enthused. React supportively when others speak up.

Your visible example gives teammates "permission" to join in. If you demonstrate good meeting behavior, they'll mirror it.

So watch your body language, energy level, and willingness to interact. You reap what you sow when running a meeting.

9. Use a Tool to Capture Notes

Taking detailed notes during meetings is challenging. It's also a distraction that inhibits participation. Tools like Supernormal allow you to record meetings and automatically turn them into shareable notes. With Supernormal capturing meeting details, attendees can fully focus on the conversation. They don't have to worry about scribbling down everything said.

Bottom line, using a tool like Supernormal frees up mental bandwidth. Your team can actively engage without note-taking weighing them down.

The key is listening more than talking and making space for input. Engagement happens when your team feels safe, included, and excited to contribute. Set expectations, use structures like round robins, and incentivize participation. Your meetings will transform from dreaded to dynamic in no time.

Now, who has something to add? The floor is yours...

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