6 Tips to Improve Group Dynamics in a Meeting

Last Updated Nov 7, 2008 3:13 PM EST

2251184710_cec1ef0d5e_m.jpgI'm not telling you anything new when I say that many meetings are simply a waste of time. But do you know exactly why?

Stephen Smith at Productivity in Context points out that it's the group dynamics of meetings, not the meetings themselves, that can create problems. The result can be groupthink, a tendency for higher-status attendees to feign knowledge to save face, limited contributions by lower-ranking employees who fear rejection, and reduced individual accountability.

As a meeting leader or facilitator, there are six things you can do to increase a meeting's value or productivity, he says:

  1. Establish (and express) your own belief in the value of group work. If you don't think that the meeting is a good idea, no one else will either.
  2. Set clear goals for the meeting right at the start. Setting a goal for the group lets the attendees know that they are accountable for the success of the meeting.
  3. Create an avenue for back-and-forth communication. Meetings, even for presentations, should be more like a press conference than an address. If the attendees have no means or reason to interact, then you might as well just record a video and send it out.
  4. Distribute the power and responsibility. As the leader of a meeting you can increase participation by assigning roles to discussion leaders, having multiple presenters, and being sure to ask open-ended (rather than yes-or-no) questions. At the end of the meeting, have a list of who is responsible for each next action -- and when it's due.
  5. Encourage and acknowledge every participant's contributions to the meeting. By showing sincerity and trust, you can truly get more from the group than from the sum of its parts.
  6. Finally, say thank you. It's an easy yet powerful way to acknowledge your attendees' time and input.
(image by cambodia4kidsorg via Flickr, CC 2.0)
  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for AnchorDesk.com and writes regularly for Law.com and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.