What should a Participant do when -
P2 – The Participant wants to act as a constructive and useful Participant
Make Wise Contributions
1 Probably Conference Participants* should accept as their major role the making of wise contributions.
2 These notes state that anyone can take a leadership role – defined as “Making procedural contributions”. Usually the phrase “wise contributions” refers to the content of the contributions. However, it can also include procedure contributions.
3 Broadly, a wise contribution includes anything which helps the Conference achieve its objectives.
4 This point ignores the possibility that a Conference could have a worthless end objective.
5 The very word “Participant” describes an important part of the role. Anyone who attends a Conference and says nothing usually plays no useful part in achieving the Conference Objectives.**
6 To make wise contributions, Participants need to listen to conference discussions and decide whether they support, oppose, or feel neutral toward, the ideas of other Conference Members.
Relate at least some contributions to contributions of other Members.
7 After listening carefully, Participants should evaluate the contributions of others and make contributions relevant to helping to achieve the Conference Objectives.
* In these notes, the word “Participant” refers to all Conference Members other than the Leader. The word “Leader” refers to the Official Conference Leader.
** An exception occurs if a person’s very presence has an influence on the way people behave. Example. A Manager of one or more Members attends a Conference yet takes no part in the Conference except to lend support by attending.
8 Once they hear a contribution, Participants can:
(a) support the ideas put forward by another Member – in order to help gain consensus,
(b) oppose some ideas which they rate as incorrect – in order to avoid consensus on some idea and/or action which they feel will stop (further) progress by the Conference,
(c) keep silent – when they believe their contribution will not really assist the Group’s progress, or
(d) keep silent – when they disagree with a Member’s ideas but they -
(i) do not believe it relevant to the progress of the Conference and/or
(ii) believe it will not prove useful overall to disagree with the contribution.
9 Helpful Participants will contribute useful ideas (content) to the discussion.
10 Very helpful Participants will also:
(a) realise that the Conference procedures need improvement and
(b) suggest better procedures.
11 Examples. (a) “Mr. Chairman, I think Dick wanted to get a vote on the matter of “(b) “I think Betty has a useful idea and it needs further consideration. I wonder if we could ask Betty to repeat her idea and have everyone listen to it carefully.” (c) “I wonder if you have everyone’s view on this matter, Madam Chair.” (d) I suspect that some people do not want to change the subject matter of the discussion. Perhaps you should take a straw vote on the matter.”
Encourage wise behaviour in other Members especially the Official Leader.
12 Useful Participants will also help by:
(a) encouraging quieter Conference Members to contribute
(b) maintaining silence at appropriate times
(c) pointing out when off-the-topic contributions occur
(d) answering questions put by the Conference Leader and encouraging others to do likewise.
13 However the above points assume that Conference Leaders have enough wisdom to recognise helpful attempts when they see them and will accept them. Wise leaders will not feel defensive about their own role as the Official Leader or feel annoyed at anyone who attempts to help them.
14 However helping other Members will not prove completely straightforward. Sometimes Leaders will have a strategy by which they aim to deal with a Conference situation. The helper’s contributions will sometimes upset that strategy.
15 Thus, probably, wise Participants will delay their procedural contributions for (say) a minute and/or three contributions — especially where they believe their procedural idea will have a major impact.
16 However sometimes they will need to move quickly because they believe they can stop a Conference Leader from doing something quite unwise.
Help relax a tense situation.
17 Where Participants can do so, they will help to relieve tension. Sometimes a humorous remark will do wonders to relax a Group.
Study appropriate material before the Conference.
18 Before a Conference, useful Conference Participants will have studied any material that Participants should have studied. They will have done their “Individual-think” before they reach the stage of “Group-think” and discussion.
Train Members in effective Conference Leading and Participating.
19 Sometimes helpful Participants will find their contributions limited by the knowledge other Members have. What will prove helpful to a Group who know how to achieve effective Conferences will annoy, or seem like unwarranted interference to, a less knowledgeable group. In these cases (and where further Conferences will take place), skillful Participants will aim to teach some of the other Conference Members something about how Conferences should function. Official leaders will often need such training.
20 In summary, Members who want to play a useful part in the success of a Conference, will:
(a) provide sound content contributions, which relate to the topic and help move the Group towards the Conference Objectives,
(b) support a Leader’s moves to retain control and generally assist the Group, and
(c) help the Group achieve procedures that advance the discussion towards the Conference objectives.