Having a meeting? Add silence to the agenda

While on a cruise through Alexander Kjerulf’s Chief Happiness Officer blog archives, I came across a post he did called 5 weeeeeeird tips for great meetings.

Of his 5 tips, the one I liked best was the 5th one: Use strategically placed silence:

This is probably the one thing you find in no meetings. I mean – the purpose of meetings is to talk, right. Silence kinda defeats that purpose, doesn’t it?

No. The purpose of meetings is not to talk – the purpose of meetings is to arrive at ideas, solutions, plans and decisions in such a way that:

1. The ideas are so good that they can be carried out.

2. The process that leads to the ideas is so good that people want to carry the ideas out.

And in this respect, silence can be a great tool. Because while some people can think while they’re talking – most can’t.

A well-placed two-minute silent break is a great chance for people to stop and think. To figure out what the deeper issues are. To see the solution that is not immediately obvious. To find out how they feel about the issues being discussed.

Here are some ways to use it: [Read the rest at the original posting, and meet Alex while you’re there.]

Strategic silence is something I use in my workshop presentations as well, giving people time to reflect and debrief for the 3 minutes before every break we take. I force the issue; no break until I see them write something down, and if they only needed a minute they are asked to sit and respect the peace in the room for everyone else until the full time has gone by.

At first it can be uncomfortable for people; we really aren’t accustomed to silence when we are in a group. However after the very first break I will be sure to ask, "Is there anything else we need to talk about before I move on?" and I’ve noticed that people come back from their breaks with great questions.

By the end of the workshop there will be an outcry for that silent time if I forget to give it: People engage with each other better during those breaks instead of hiding away somewhere in a corner with their blackberries, and they engage in learning with more focus. Silence has become a mini-immersion technique and a retention-booster.

Great idea for your next meeting too. Try it.