How to Improve Participation and Engagement in Team Meetings

As change creeps into our business lives, one thing will always remain….meetings.

Whether in-person (yes…we will eventually meet in person again), on a video conference platform (Zoom fatigue, anyone?), or even a bridge line on the phone (which I find to be oddly refreshing, these days), there is a simple tactic to improve both participation and engagement in team meetings. Give people something to focus on.

It isn’t about you.

Seriously, stop turning EVERY online meeting into a “webinar”. Even the word “webinar” conjures up the heebie jeebies in most sales people and corporate folks. Meetings are not TED Talks. Meetings are not lectures. Meetings should not be keynote speeches, either. Each of those presentations have a time and a place. Trying to handle a weekly standup, status update or project/sales focused meeting is NOT the time for that. There is important work to be done.

Everyone is distracted.

Upon this article first being published, most of you who will read this are likely working from home. Ask any of your friends, neighbors or colleagues who regularly work from home, and they will tell you, right now…is NOT normal.

Your kids are now distance learners.

Your spouse is now your colleague from another virtual department (who is also trying to figure out how to work remote).

Your pets are now your co-workers.

And work…frankly…still must be done.

What to do about it.

The solution is simple. In fact, it is not even that new. Edward deBono shared his take on this simple solution in his book The Six Thinking Hats, originally published in 1985. That was a long time before the internet was ever a way to conduct business. Sure, we had modems and PCs then, but Apple computers were mostly used in schools (Oregon Trail, anyone?) and video conferencing or cell phones…NOWHERE near the level of sophisciation, ease or affordability of today’s electronic technologies. However, even then….oh so long ago (I was just about to middle school)…there were meetings. And people found those “analog” events to be boring as well….until, deBono enlightened us with lenses of perspective through which to view them.

I’m going to share two basic ways you might utilize the Six Thinking Hats model to raise the level of engagement for your meetings…of ANY variety...presuming you actually need to hold one.

  1. At the beginning of the meeting (or better yet, when you send the pre-meeting agenda out), assign one of the Six Hats to someone (or several) people who will be attending. Make it their job to make certain the perspective their hat represents is addressed during the meeting.
  2. As the meeting progresses, simply set a brief timer (or transition the focus in some other fashion) and ask everyone to provide input through the exclusive lens represented by a particular hat.

If you have ANOTHER WAY you see the hats could be utilized, please share it in the comments below. We are ALWAYS looking for othe ways to apply using these hats to ignite engagement in meetings.

Curious NOW about the Six Thinking Hats?

Here’s a tool that shares an overview of the hats. In short, each color represents a #perspective the wearer should take when sharing input.

So…Give it a shot. Ask your team members to grab one of the helmets. Print the details out above (or share the image in the chat box of your next online meeting for reference). For recurring meetings, rotate which helmet each person virtually wears each time to get together. You will be amazed at how much more engagement you will get from your meetings.


Scott Cooksey is Sr Advisor and Consultant for the Leadout Performance Group, part of Cooksey Connects LLC. He has worked with leaders around the globe since 2009 to help get teams increase their performance and consistently be in position to win! Schedule a personal one-on-one, introductory meeting with Cooksey at Let’s find out how to get YOU and YOUR TEAM in position to win!

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