Some meetings have participants who dominate discussion. They speak first or forcefully and “hijack” the direction of subsequent contributions. Other participants may remain silent or focus on their reactions to the first individual. The breadth of possible comments may be lost. Possible new insights and creativity are lost. Fortunately, you can choose a structure for your discussion that will naturally avoid this difficulty. Here’s how.
Tools like Go-Around, 1-2-All, and PALPaR provide structures that enable more balanced contributions. 1-2-All is particularly helpful in that the outspoken individual is now speaking to a small group with less influence on what others are sharing. By beginning with individual reflection, 1-2-All also enables everyone to gather his/her thoughts before speaking, which can be important when there is an individual who thinks out loud and is always ready with an opinion. Go-Around is most useful when you want to hear (briefly) from each participant. This can be a very important process in a virtual meeting or as you are trying to reach a decision. PALPaR is helpful for getting a range of feedback on some proposal without setting up a difficult exchange between the proposer and some outspoken opposer.
- 1-2-All stands for its process: “1” for individual reflection, “2” for sharing reactions with at least one other person, and “All” for the final sharing of reactions and conclusions with the whole group.
- Go-Around involves giving each person a brief turn to speak to the topic, without interruption or comments as everyone else simply listens.
- PALPaR is a process for gathering feedback on some proposal or plan in a way that supports reflection and listening to any feedback before responding. The acronym summarizes the process: Present, Ask, Listen, Pause, and Reply.
For more information, see other tools I recommend for creating a structure for productive discussions in Leading Great Meetings: How to Structure Yours for Success. In particular, see the chapters on How You Design the Discussion and How You Support Productive Conversations.
Photo credit: Rein Skullerud for WFP