When you host a meeting, do you notice that some participants contribute more than others?

We all think and act differently in meetings. Some people feel really comfortable speaking up and sharing their views. But others aren’t always as confident. When some people are in a group meeting, they feel unsure about asking questions or expressing opinions.

The problem is that this limits the number of different views we hear. To gain the full benefits of a meeting, we need to hear from everyone.

If we only hear from those who are the most confident, we miss out on the potentially important contributions that could be made by those who are less confident.

When you have a group of people, whether it’s in a classroom or in an office, each person brings their own unique perspective. Combined, these different insights represent a powerful and diverse selection of views.

Studies have shown that a diversity of views help us to develop better, more innovative solutions. When we only hear a few voices, we’re more likely to come up with flawed ideas.

So how can we encourage everyone in a meeting to speak up, so that we can benefit from a diverse array of ideas?

One method is for the person leading the meeting to think about who has spoken and who hasn’t. When you notice a pattern, make an effort to specifically ask those participants who haven’t spoken for their opinion.

You can also create a culture of openness at the very start of your meetings. Begin the discussion by saying that you want to hear from everyone. Tell the group that you value all opinions, and that there are no wrong answers.

Then, throughout the meeting, repeat that you want to hear all views. When each participant contributes, thank them for sharing their view. These small actions will begin to build a culture of openness in your classroom or workspace. Everyone will start to realise it’s ok to speak up.

The more opinions and views you hear, the better informed your discussions and decisions will be. All you need to do is reiterate that all views are welcome, and make sure that everyone in your class or team feels heard, valued and appreciated.

That way, you’ll gain the full benefits of everyone’s insights. Everyone will feel comfortable speaking up.