For now, I am going to assume that you don’t work with idiots. With that safely assumed, if you do what I suggest below in your next meeting, it will work. (If it doesn’t, my assumption is wrong)
How many times have you sat through an hour-long presentation or meeting that ended like this:
Meeting Leader: Any suggestions?
Group: (Silence for three seconds. Awkward glances around the room. Some are already packing up.)
Leader (after waiting the entire three seconds): OK then, see you next week.
Really? Not a single person has a suggestion?
Again assuming that you don’t work with idiots, how is this even possible?
After a while, it gets to the point where “Any suggestions?” is no longer even an invitation to offer suggestions. Everyone knows that is the cue that the meeting is over. And when someone does offer a suggestion, there is a collective sigh as if to say, “Dude, don’t you know the meeting is over?”
Sadly, the number of times in the past century of international business that the question, “Any suggestions,” actually produces a response worthy of asking the question is less than the number of people who have made fools of themselves on American Idol.
So what is the solution?
If you are a meeting leader, do this at your next meeting: When you ask if there are any suggestions, sit in silence for up to one minute.
Then watch as people shift nervously in their seats for about ten seconds. Nine times out of ten, if you are willing to make it the full minute, someone will come up with something. And nine times out of ten, it will be something of value.
Even if they don’t, it still works. The next time you do it, there is about a 97% chance that someone will speak up. If no one does the first two times, do it again. People will soon begin to catch on to what is going on. You expect them to offer suggestions.
If you are not a meeting leader, do this at your next meeting: Be the one to speak up.
As the meeting progresses, listen carefully and start preparing suggestions. It could be about style or substance. It doesn’t matter. Just speak up about something relevant.
If the leader does something different stylistically in the meeting and you liked it, say so. Don’t be a butt-kisser, but offer your suggestion that you appreciate the new format.
If you know that everyone wishes to start the meeting a half hour sooner, be the one to suggest it. If you feel like you could skip section two of the agenda most weeks,
“Any suggestions?” is your time to shine. Whatever you do, whether you are a meeting leader or meeting attendee, do not allow “Any suggestions?” to be a token question. Do not allow it to be an end of meeting cue, and do not allow it to go unanswered.
Have you ever let this question go unanswered?