Keys to effective group communication

//August 7, 2009//

Keys to effective group communication

//August 7, 2009//

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The Bottom LineQuestion: If you are asked to facilitate a large group discussion, how can you do so in such a way that encourages audience engagement and participation?

Adubato: It is often intimidating and outright scary when you are expected to go in front of a large group and keep them involved, enthusiastic and engaged. One of the keys to getting everyone working together is to break up the audience members into smaller groups, which makes it much harder for people to hide, check out or simply not participate with the larger group.

Question: As the facilitator, what is the first step?

Adubato: After introducing yourself, making opening remarks and setting the tone by reviewing the goals for the session, it is time to ask the audience to break into small groups. The challenge is that many people will try to put themselves into groups with colleagues they know or interact with on a regular basis. Your job as the facilitator is to encourage audience members to put themselves into groups with people they don’t know or don’t usually interact with. Further, if possible, have each group include no more than six to eight people so that everyone gets involved. Any more, and people can hide.

Question: How do you encourage participants in the small groups to open up and get to know one another?

Adubato: Give specific direction regarding the expectation for the group and their time together. First, ask group members to introduce themselves and take a minute to talk about their role in the organization. You can’t assume that everyone knows each other just because they see where they fit into an organizational chart. You can ask that they each share an anecdote or personal observation that says something meaningful about them. Then, the group can start sharing their ideas.

Question: Is it necessary to have one group leader in the small group?

Adubato: Not really. The danger is if you assign one person to lead the discussion, again, it is an invitation for the others to sit back and not contribute. However, it is important that the group decide early on who will be the representative for the group once the small-group work is completed and it is time to present back to the larger group.

Question: If you are a group member and someone says something you absolutely disagree with, how should you address it?

Adubato: Don’t be confrontational or criticize the person. For example, instead of saying, “Michelle, that is the stupidest idea I have ever heard,” try something like, “Michelle, why do you see it that way?” The key is to see it as an opportunity to move the conversation forward.

Question: Should someone be assigned to be the official note taker?

Adubato: Absolutely. However, this person should not be concerned with taking such copious notes that he is not participating in the discussion. Instead, the notes should be the kind that allow the group to look back and recall something significant communicated by another group member.

Question: What else should participants do before they present to the larger group?

Adubato: Doing a dress rehearsal before the real thing will help you feel more comfortable with the material, while allowing you to time it.

The Bottom Line: Much of our success in the workplace is a product of how well we work with other people. This is often determined by the way we function in smaller groups.

Steve Adubato wrote “Speak from the Heart” and “Make the Connection.” He is also an anchor for Channel 13/WNET (PBS) and a motivational speaker. He

can be reached at (973) 744-5260 or at www.stand-deliver.com.