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Half of delegates fear speaking up at meetings

Lumi poll finds 51 per cent don't voice opinions, with planners saying meeting design and technology is the answer
30/09/2016

Pictured: Mark Scales, head of event solutions at Banks Sadler

More than half of delegates don't speak freely at business meetings, as planners are urged to use technology and meeting design tools to encourage wider participation.


The findings, the result of a survey by mobile engagement provider Lumi, found that 51 per cent of attendees admitted to saying what they think is expected of them, instead of what they actually want to. When asked why, 54 per cent of women said they feared looking foolish, compared to 41 per cent of men.


Mark Scales, head of event solutions at Banks Sadler, said meetings should be designed to encourage participation by all.


"The old school model of giving someone a microphone and asking them to stand up to ask a question in front of everyone doesn't work - not everyone is comfortable with that," he said.


"Things like apps and technology where you can submit questions do work. We've seen an increase in participation when people are given the tools, but take away the pressure of having to stand up to contribute."


Scales also said the design of the conference could encourage participation, saying more of a lounge feel or smaller break-outs  helps set a conversational tone.


He added: "Even things like having the traditional plenary, with a stage at the front and a big screen. It's a one-way conversation. The audience is getting told information and they're not getting involved. They're sitting higher than you, they're looking down at you. There's a lectern, and there's almost a barrier between 'us' and 'them'. You're limited on what level of engagement you're going to get. We've tried to break that down."


Peter Eyre, UK managing director of Lumi, who commissioned the research, said: "It’s clear that many employees are still inhibited about giving their true thoughts, despite today’s focus on improving internal communications and employee engagement. However, this is counter to current thinking on group dynamics and producing better ideas at meetings through true collaboration.


"It’s been established that no matter how smart they are, if one or two people dominate the conversation, the group intelligence will suffer. In highly intelligent teams and companies, ideas and discussions take place among a group of people, not just individuals."


Lumi says its products, such as Meetoo, enable meeting attendees to ask questions or comment anonymously.


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