What is the likelihood of raising your hand in class, or in a meeting, or at a conference?
Some people raise their hands all the time. I have this policy where I try to say absolutely nothing at all in meetings. However, I have such a big mouth, I inevitably can’t hold back and comments pour out from me. If I didn’t have this policy, I would never stop talking. Other people I know clearly don’t have this policy and they talk and ask questions all the time.
Yet still, there are those who never say anything. These are the vast majority of people. Most people are content to sit quietly while others argue out some issue in a meeting. What I find interesting is that the size of the meeting has a direct impact on who will say what.
2 people: The smallest meeting
When two people are together, I find that it is a pretty good chance that both people will talk. Sometimes you have someone dominating, but usually it’s a mutual dialog.
3-4 people: Brainstorming
These meetings can be pretty productive, but each person over 4 will have the chance of not speaking. The size of this meeting is good for making decisions.
5-10 people: Big Company “regular” meeting
At any large org, these kinds of meetings will happen all day. They have 3-4 people who do all the talking and the rest of the people are following along, maybe chiming in once in a while depending on their personality. I find these meetings are pretty expensive from a resource standpoint and not that effective from a decision standpoint. These kinds of meetings, you will find people looking at their laptops and playing with their cell phones. Usually PowerPoint is involved with too many words and not enough clarity.
10-50 people: Periodic All Hands
Every department or division will get together once a week or month to go over the status of the group. These kinds of meetings will shut the mouths of even the loudest participants. There are just too many people and anything one says will be viewed as insignificant. Unless you are presenting something specific, it’s best to keep quiet and try and look like you are engaged.
A big group is not designed for interaction. There is the speaker and the audience and never the twain shall meet. It’s up to the speaker to keep people attentive. Bad speakers will see alot of laptops open, good speakers will see eyeballs. At the end of the conference, there is the “ask a question period”. At this point, its a particular personality that will raise their hands. (I admit I do this often)
User Experience design is all about looking at the world around you and seeing how people function. Why do they raise their hands, or sit on them? What environmental factors will make a difference or not? If you want to design a better world, you have to know the rules of the game.