The success and productivity of a meeting depends on essentially two things — planning and facilitation. Below are some tips on how to successfully facilitate a meeting.
Let’s say that the meeting is scheduled to begin in half an hour. You have, of course, sent out an agenda prior to the meeting and reserved the meeting space. Plan to arrive at the meeting location early to ensure that the space is available, since scheduling mistakes can occur. Adjust the lighting, climate and seating arrangement if necessary. The facilitator should be seated at the head of a rectangular table farthest from the entrance to the room. Check and arrange any equipment that will be used in the meeting, such as a slide projector, overhead projector, markers for flip charts or chalk for the blackboards. Once the room is set up, it’s time to get into the facilitator mode. The following is a list of the top 10 ways to become an effective facilitator:
1. Start on time, keep to set time limits and end on time. Use a timer if necessary.
2. Introduce yourself, review the agenda, establish an ending time and what is expected from the participants.
3. Use body language that invites participation. Smile and use hand gestures. Avoid folding your arms and leaning back in your chair.
4. Ask open-ended questions to encourage participation and clarification. Include words and phrases like “describe,” “explain” and “tell us more about….” If a participant looks like they have something to say, call on them by name and ask what they have to add rather than asking a question that invites a “yes” or “no” response.
Also, don’t panic during a moment of silence. If you have just asked an open-ended question, your group may need some time to formulate a response.
5. Record the participants’ responses on a flip chart or white board. Try to use the participants’ exact words when recording their statements.
6. Paraphrase a comment if it lacks clarity. This is sometimes referred to as the “echo technique.” For example, if the speaker says, “Attendance is down in aerobics classes due to scheduling conflicts,” you merely need to say, “Scheduling conflicts?” and they will provide more information to clarify their statement.
7. Keep the group focused on the task at hand. Redirect the discussion if it strays. When dealing with those who ramble, politely suggest that participants who are interested in discussing the topic further can get together after the meeting. In a more casual environment where
participants are familiar with each other, you might want to try a more playful approach, such as bringing a broken record to the meeting and placing it in front of any participant who tends to stray from the topic.
8. Resist the desire to pass judgment on a statement or interject your own opinions. Remember that your role as the facilitator is to bring structure rather than content to the meeting. In the case of an emotionally charged meeting, make the participant aware of his/her emotions by asking why they feel a certain way. Allow the participant to talk, and don’t criticize.
9. Call a short recess if the group becomes stuck or if the discussion becomes particularly heated. If the group is still not progressing, determine if outside expertise is needed.
If more information is needed, reschedule the meeting when the information is available.
10. Call for a vote anytime a unanimous decision seems unlikely.
emotion , facilitation , markers