How To Facilitate a Meeting

A person is in charge of a meeting.The purpose of the facilitator is to make sure the meeting runs smoothly from start to finish.All goals of the meeting should be met by the conclusion of a well-facilitated meeting.A good facilitator will ensure that all attendees understand the purpose of the meeting, make sure all needs are met, and ensure full participation.

Step 1: Start with an agenda.

While a facilitation should blend into meetings and make their job look easy, it’s important that they prepare extensively for meetings.Write an Agenda.A good agenda will include key points about the meeting as well as provide adequate detail so that attendees know where to be and what to expect.To ensure that the meeting runs on time, note the start and end times of sessions, as well as realistic time limits for each session.Discuss topics that affect everyone at the meeting.Try to get feedback from those in attendance about the topics that need to be discussed.The topics should be posed as questions that need to be answered in the meeting.Discuss the purpose of the discussion.Is it for information, to solve a problem, or to make a decision?The attendees should prepare for the meeting.

Step 2: Plan the invitations.

This is a delicate balance.You run the risk of a boring meeting if there are too few people in attendance.Only people who will help you reach the goal of the meeting will be invited.Do you want to ask the following?Who are the decision makers?Who is most knowledgeable about what is being said?Who is interested in the topics?Who will be responsible for implementing any decisions made?8 people should be invited to meetings where a decision needs to be made.When the purpose of the meeting is to come up with ideas, they suggest 18 people.

Step 3: Send the invitations via email.

Sending an email is the easiest way to invite people.An introduction to the meeting should be provided in your email.The date, time, and RSVP deadline should be included.Attached to the email should be the agenda.It is optional to require an RSVP, but it will allow you to prepare a proper amount of materials for everyone.

Step 4: Think about what a good facilitation does.

You will be in a good position to know what is expected of you when it is your turn to perform the job if you reflect on what a facilitation does during a meeting.A good facilitator has a number of characteristics that help him or her manage time, people and different opinions.The best time to develop these qualities is early.Value people and their ideas.After an attendee presents an idea, a good facilitator will compliment him or her.Say something like “Thank you, those are useful points that help us think about the issue in a different way.”By doing this, you will make sure that everyone is heard and that others are confident in speaking up.Be alert.During meetings, you will have to respond to a lot of different situations.You have to think and act quickly.If someone provides meaningful advice, be quick to praise them, then look for another attendee who is seeking to build on that line of thought.If someone raises a bad point that is off topic, do your best to highlight the good in the comment and search for another attendee who will build on what you thought was good.Speak well.Everyone in the room needs to understand you.Everyone can hear you speak at a reasonable volume.Do not mumble or mumble clearly.If everyone at the meeting is familiar with the terminology, use jargon only.

Step 5: You should plan the location and arrange the furniture.

If the meeting is going to be face-to-face, a virtual meeting through screens, or a combination of the two, you’ll need to consider that.Depending on the meeting format, you will need to make sure that all the furniture and hardware are in place, including chairs, tables, and projector screens.There are many ways to set up furniture for a meeting.A round table can be used for discussions.Establishing a speaker as the main focus is accomplished by setting chairs in rows.The main purpose of this set-up is to convey information.A table at the front of the room allows for a panel of speakers to sit up front.In a lecture format, attendees will sit in rows in front of the panel speakers.A classroom set-up has tables in front of rows of chairs to allow attendees to take notes while the speaker is the focus of the meeting.You can use the U-shaped set-up for meetings where you want the participants to see each other.Set up chairs in a circle with you in the center of the meeting.

Step 6: Supplies should be provided for those attending the meeting.

Attendees will be provided with pens, notepads, workbooks, handouts and other tools needed for the meeting by a fully-prepared facilitator.If you need to provide log-in information ahead of time for virtual meetings, consider it.A flip chart or white board would be ideal for people to take notes for everyone to see.The meeting will flow more smoothly if participants have their questions answered at certain times during the meeting.Depending on the length of the meeting, provide your participants with beverages, snacks, water and/or candy.

Step 7: As the meeting approaches send an email reminder.

It is possible that people will forget about an upcoming meeting because they are busy.Reminders should be sent to those who will be attending two days before the meeting.You can remind invitees that they need to RSVP before the deadline.Ask if anyone has changed their plans in your reminder email.

Step 8: Arrive early for the meeting.

Everyone who arrives at the meeting should be greeted by you as the facilitation.Either shake their hand as they walk into the room or greet them when they log in to the tele- conference.This will show that you are serious and ready to discuss and create a warm environment for the meeting.

Step 9: Make the objectives clear by starting the meeting on time.

Everyone in the meeting will start on the same page if the objectives are reintroduced.It will help to set the tone for the meeting and put people on the right track.You can make announcements about break times, fire exits and restroom locations at the beginning of the meeting.Rules for interaction may be established depending on who is at the meeting.Rules could include show one another mutual respect, stay on topic, attacking the problem rather than the person, and not interrupt others.

Step 10: All attendees should speak at the meeting.

Everyone has a different method for guiding a meeting.One important method is to make sure that the discussion is not dominated by a few people.Ensure that you are on the lookout for anyone who may want to make a point and give them the chance to speak.A colleague namedSamantha looks interested but hasn’t contributed.”How does the issue at hand affect your department and you specifically?”

Step 11: You should stick to the topic.

The job of the facilitator is to keep the speakers on topic.The meeting may not reach its intended outcome if you allow off-target tangents.If you sense discussion moving off topic, ask questions that relate to the topic.”But how does this affect the issue we are discussing today?” you could ask if dialogue has begun to drift.These are some very interesting points.Let’s focus on the issue at hand and not discuss these at a later date.You may want to address the ideas that were brought up in a later meeting.You can honor those ideas but not offend anyone.

Step 12: Have a plan for difficult situations.

Bring in another person that you know will speak to the issue if you sense that participants are about to get into a heated debate.You want to bring in more dialogue to diffuse the debate.In the event of a conflict, you can identify common ground and listen to both sides.”It is clear that you are both coming from different sides,” you could say in the event of a difficult situation.You agree with the importance of the issue, so let’s focus our energy on finding a mutually beneficial result.

Step 13: Ask and answer questions.

If you are in a position to respond accurately, you can take questions from attendees.The person at the meeting who is in a better position to respond to the question should be referred to.If you don’t know the answer to the question, you can say: “That’s an excellent question.”I believe thatSamantha is better informed on this topic.What are your thoughts?

Step 14: Clarify and simplify findings.

During the meeting, take notes and write down all your ideas and opinions.A review of what was said and the conclusions that were reached at the conclusion of a discussion is helpful.The key points were made by each person in attendance.Contribute to the issues addressed by highlighting whatever resolutions were made.

Step 15: When the meeting ends, ask how it went.

You need feedback to improve as a meeting facilitator.Is the agenda distributed at a good time?The attendees were well prepared.Did the time allocated to each topic work?Is there enough time for a discussion?The room set-up could be improved.Email surveys can be sent to participants after the meeting.Make changes for the next meeting if you review the result.