Could you be better at engagement?

It is a typical aspiration. Most organisations, teams and leaders want to engage better with staff, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.

Barbecue fire and cupThe benefits are obvious – more opinion, comments and feedback; a sharper focus on outcomes and impact; closer involvement in decision-making and analysis of needs; better product and services delivery, and so on.

In my experience, however, many organisations, teams and leaders are still weak when it comes to proper engagement. Why is that? For me, it comes down to how effective you and your organisation are at story-telling, at understanding the right questions to ask, and at engaging in a manner that meets the preferred style of your audience.

At recent ‘engagement’ events, I’ve been talked at for lengthy periods. No, that is not engagement. It is a presentation, often best done by sending out an email, especially when the subject matter is not leaping at the audience and captivating them.

In my most recent case, I was bored rigid within about 10 minutes, maximum! I don’t know about you, but when I get bored, I become mischievous. I fidget, I doodle, I disrupt, not just myself but also others around me. It’s not great, but it is human nature. Call it lack of discipline, if you will, but I am not a robot!

In an engagement process, I need to be captivated, amused, enthralled, and informed. I need an opportunity to voice my thoughts, ideas and opinions. My input should be valued. Actions should occur, or, if not, reasons presented for different or lack of action.

What I find often overlooked in an engagement process is any evident sign from those wishing to engage with an audience that it has diversity, richness, expertise, ideas, or creativity. If only the originators of an event knew how to unlock such quality?

In an engagement process, I like to see purpose, passion, energy, and enthusiasm. These may seem like old-fashioned characteristics, even values, but they unlock people’s genuine engagement and involvement. I hate to see drab, featureless and mediocre presenters. It’s like enduring a childhood visit to your least favourite relatives. You can’t wait until it’s over!

So, think about your next engagement process. What do you need to put in place to ensure maximum benefit for participants, as well as for you?

My suggestion is simple. What do you want to learn? Engagement for me is not about imparting information; it is about garnering it. It is about meaningful dialogue, so give people lots of space to talk. Yes, provide a little input by all means, but not for hours and hours.

Engagement is interactive. It is about human connection. It might be virtual, but it is still people talking to each other about things they find important. I co-authored a book with 15 other people entirely virtually. I know it can work, whether physically face-to-face or through a screen, phone, computer, tablet or otherwise!

If you do it physically face-to-face, use notetakers to capture the essence of the dialogue on tables. Don’t stint on investing in engagement. Go the extra mile and you will reap the rewards. And remember, this is also about capturing their feelings, as well as their opinions. Both are equally valid, and both are necessary for you to define the bigger picture that your participants are helping you to develop.

[Tweet “I think happiness is a combination of pleasure, engagement and meaningfulness. – Ian K Smith”]

So, are you engaging actually? How do you hope to improve on what you do? What help do you need to do that?

I love meaningful dialogue. I am always happy to listen and ready to help.  Please reach out to me if I might be of value to you.

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