How team size and meeting size relate
‘Our meeting rooms fit a maximum of 8 participants.’ I was being guided through the new headquarters of a major bank. Of course the design of the brand new offices showed the decency and the wealth you may expect from a conservative institution as a bank. But I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of attention to changing their meetings and meeting culture.
I was told that meeting rooms for a maximum of 8 participants was a bold step. It raised a lot of internal discussions by managers and team leaders who just loved their big meetings. And it was for the tenacity of the architects that the meeting rooms were capped for the number of participants.
Big meetings do not deliver
And they are right: big meetings do not deliver.
In a famous study, the French professor Max Ringelmann, let people participate in a rope-pulling game. And he discovered that as more individuals joined the teams, the less effort they put into pulling the rope. Other studies show that the Pareto principle is at work and that usually not more than one third of the group is accounting for most of the work.
So if you like big meetings think twice.
This is something you already sensed. It just confirms the awkward feeling you had about holding big meetings.
Getting participants to put more effort in team work
How do you get participants to put more effort in group work? How do you increase engagement from all participants?
The answer is to make sure that all participants get a space for their contribution. And there are two ways to do that:
- Keep meetings small like the bank does and
- Make your meeting like an accordion. Break up meetings in smaller groups and then reconvene with the whole group to briefly discuss the main conclusions.
My experience is that groups perform best when they’ve a maximum of 5 to 6 participants. In that sense 8 participants in a meeting is already pushing it. So I would suggest splitting the meeting regularly into pairs or groups of 4.
You will immediately feel that the level of engagement rises during the meeting, but also after. It’s just a simple way to get the whole team to work.
Are you ready to try this? Then also have a look at my tip on video!