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Lead a lively discussion

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management

You gather a group to brainstorm, swap notes and solve problems. You want them to open up. But they’re a quiet bunch, and you’re worried they will sit and stare rather than stand and deliver.

Goad them to speak up by creating a friendly, unstructured atmosphere. Use these techniques:

Apply the “10/10 rule.” You expect attendees to keep quiet, so you prepare lengthy remarks or slide presentations to fill the void. Bad move. Even if you tell them, “Interrupt me anytime with questions,” you’ll still wind up monopolizing the meeting.

Instead, talk for no longer than 10 minutes. Then allot 10 minutes for the group to discuss issues it cares about. Whether the members expand on your comments or raise unrelated topics, give them time to share what’s on their minds. The 10/10 rule creates a rhythm in which everyone takes turns and makes breakthroughs.

Replay quotes. If one participant makes a brilliant observation but no one chimes in and the discussion threatens to peter out, repeat it and ask, “What do the rest of you think?”

Example: Jim says, “We talk a lot about our sitting inventory but not sales.” The group falls silent, but you stick in the pitchfork: “Jim said we focus on inventory, not sales. Do we overlook sales?” Wait 10 seconds while making eye contact with a few individuals. If they still don’t respond, quickly give your opinion, then offer a couple of potential solutions and prompt them for feedback again.

Keep people moving. Once people settle into a chair and get comfy, they may tune out or turn passive. Awaken their senses.

Examples: Rearrange the seats after a break, toss a foam ball around, direct breakout teams to convene in different parts of the room.

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