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ASK, NOT TELL

....and many other thoughts about facilitation, coaching ( teams & individuals) and learning

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  • David

Get them to speak up

Updated: Mar 21


There was a recent occasion during which I was asked on how to get participants in meetings to speak up. I have shared in this blog before on a similar topic - Dealing with learners in China. I think I have more ideas now. In addition, whilst the previous post was on training class setting, let me post some ideas on meeting setting. 1. Contracting – Simply agree explicitly at the start that the group as a whole welcome each to speak up. 2. Write first – Give the participants time to write down their response to your questions before you ask them to respond in public. This is especially useful for Asian participants who generally need to think through before they speak. 3. Small group – Get the participants to share their personal response to your questions in pairs or small groups first. This yields similar benefit as the last point. Moreover, if you then ask for group thought (instead of individual thought), your participants will be even more willing to respond. They will feel safer as what they do not have to take 100% responsibility on what they say. 4. Ask ‘Visual’ question – Good questions make people respond. I find ‘visual’ question help the most. It stimulates the participants to respond with vivid pictures in their minds. Let’s say it is a team building event. Instead of asking ‘How would an ideal team look like to you?’, we would ask ‘Imagine your team now become the ideal team i.e. fulfilling the aspiration mentioned before, what would be the 3 words you will use to describe the team?’ 5. Take a stand first – People are naturally inclined to speak up to defend for their own choices, especially after they have openly indicated the choices to the others. This is one of the Ciadini principles – Consistency and Commitment. For example, back to the question of ‘How would an ideal team look like to you?’ A alternative is to first give them 4 choices – possibly 4 most common attributes of an ideal team e.g. collaboration, complementary skills, common goal, result. Ask each participant to choose one which he / she considers to be the most important attribute. Then, get them stand up and go to a corner of the room which corresponds to the choice. The facilitator will then invite them to convince the others to join their own corners. With their physical location indicating their choice openly, they will speak up. 6. Take out the identity – People especially Asians are hesitated to speak up because they do not want to appear ‘showing off’ (e.g. taking up too much public air time) or ‘stupid’ (e.g. content being wrong or unpopular to the others) Thus in order to put them at ease we can take their identity away. For example, get them to express their view through anonymous survey before the meeting. 7. Use simulating materials – They are can be articles, videos, cartoons, etc

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