Tips and techniques

Crowdsourced meetings are better meetings

Ben Crothers Ben Crothers • 14 June 2022

One of the best ways to improve meetings is by not running them alone. Here are 17 ways you can involve others, AND improve engagement along the way.

Make your meetings a team effort (PHOTO CREDIT: Zach Lucero on Unsplash)

Make your meetings a team effort (PHOTO CREDIT: Zach Lucero on Unsplash)

It takes a lot of effort to plan and run a really good meeting or workshop. Nailed the main outcome and agenda? Check. Touched base with the significant stakeholders, to ensure alignment? Yep. Prepped the room? Created an online canvas? Got a plan B in case some people decide to Zoom in instead of being there in-person? Snacks? 

And that's all before the meeting. All this, on top of guiding (or carrying!) your group throughout the meeting, covering all the bases, and getting to the outcomes on the agenda can be EXHAUSTING.

You can - and should - get help running your meeting

Thankfully, one of the biggest lessons to learn about facilitation is that you don't have to do it all yourself. One of the biggest level-ups I made as a facilitator was when I stopped trying to do it all. As I wrote before, you're a guide, not a sherpa.

It's totally OK to ask for help.

In fact, you SHOULD. Involving others in the running of the meeting is not only good for you, but also a huge boost for focus and engagement (read 15 other engagement tips here). 

Give people roles to maximise the meeting's success

Let's get one thing clear: we're not talking about busywork. This isn't about getting people to do things to try to force engagement, or create the illusion of real work. This is about seeing your meeting as an opportunity for your group to work as a team on something that they will all benefit from. Which, if you think about it, all work should be!

Here are 8 kinds of roles, where you can ask others in your meeting to help:

  1. Sense-checker - If you have put the agenda together, get a couple of people to sense-check it before the meeting. 
  2. Climate controller - Ask somebody ahead of time to ask everybody else at the start of the meeting if the room is at the right temperature, and adjust it accordingly.
  3. Note-taker - Ask for a volunteer to capture notes. Better yet: set up some sort of roster where somebody different does it each meeting. Oh, and make sure they know where to put the notes after the meeting, for everyone to refer to.
  4. Time-keeper - Give somebody the responsibility of keeping the meeting on time, especially if you are time-boxing each part of the meeting. They have everybody else's permission to keep to time, and make non-verbal signs whenever time is nearly up..
  5. Translator - If someone uses an esoteric term or jargon, or an acronym, ask for a volunteer to explain it.
  6. Affinitiser - After a big sticky note activity, ask for a couple of (confident) volunteers to de-duplicate, and group the sticky notes, and then verbally play back what they have read. I've found that this is an absolute GAME-CHANGER for productive, engaging conversations.
  7. Summariser - After a lengthy discussion, ask for someone to try to summarise the discussion, to help everybody reflect.
  8. Closer - When it's time to capture next steps, ask for a volunteer to lead that part of the discussion. This really is a well-kept secret for leadership development.

See? Look at how much you can help grow the people around you in meetings, just by asking for help! You're a leadership guru, and you didn't even know it! 😉

Special roles for online and hybrid meetings

Online meetings and hybrid meetings usually introduce a bunch of different complications. It takes an absolute unicorn of a super-human to stay across all these complications and keep a productive experience going, so it's definitely OK to ask for help in these situations. 

Here are a few roles that are particular to online and hybrid meetings, to free you up to focus on the outcomes and interpersonal dynamics:

  1. Onboarder - Being ready to welcome people as they enter the online meeting, especially for when people join late. They can re-post the link to the online canvas that everybody is using in the chat (since they won't see any chat already posted). 
  2. Tech support - Ensuring that everybody has access to any software or websites being used, and is familiar with using them. 
  3. Inclusion monitor - Keeping one eye on ensuring online participants are remembered and involved, and the other eye on the chat box for any questions or comments
  4. Breakout room helper - Sorting people into breakout rooms, and being ready to send them out, post helpful messages, plus the wind-up "We’re coming back in 1 minute" messages.
  5. Capturer - Sometimes hybrid meetings have different content being created in different rooms or online spaces. All of this content needs to be centralised, so that everybody can access it in the same way. It's good to have somebody responsible for capturing and centralising the content, by either posting photos, or using a sticky note recognition app.  

For longer flights, get a co-pilot

Plus, of course, there are lots of times - especially with big complicated meetings, workshops and offsites - where you should definitely give yourself permission to get a co-pilot. Everybody needs a wingmate for these roles:

  1. Concierge - Similar to the Onboarder above, being ready to welcome people to what might be an unfamiliar room or environment, checking if they have any questions or needing any help settling in, especially for when joining late.
  2. Navigator - Keeping a weather eye on how the agenda is tracking, helping you know what's coming up next, and if any course changes might be needed
  3. Roamer - Gently popping in and out of small groups and breakout rooms, to check that everybody understands what they need to do, offer assistance, and throw in the odd prompting question to stimulate discussion.
  4. Co-host - A lot of TV news and talk shows have more than one host, simply because it's much more interesting than only having one host. Consider swapping the lead on various activities and parts of your meeting, workshop, or offsite, with a co-host. They can lead while you do another of these roles, or simply monitor the flow and quality of discussion. 

Agh, imagine having to do all of these things all by yourself?!

OK, now go get some help, and rock that next meeting!


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