Great meetings need more than just good preparation and planning. The conversation can’t just run free, it must be managed to achieve the purpose and output you need. If you want effective meetings, try using these tips for facilitating better meetings. These tips can turn a rambling 60 minutes into an engaged, productive conversation.
- Don’t use ice breakers for everyday meetings.
- Know people’s names and faces.
- Track progress towards the goal/output.
- Be aware of the time.
- Stop a topic if it isn’t relevant.
- Be open to adding new topics.
- Don’t do all the talking yourself.
- Pay attention to who is talking.
- Pay attention to who isn’t talking.
- Invite quiet participants to speak.
1. Don’t use ice breakers for everyday meetings
Meetings bring people together and provide an opportunity to strengthen relationships. This might tempt you to add an icebreaker activity at the start of the meeting. Don’t. Work meetings serve a purpose, they have – or they should have – a specific purpose and output. Icebreaker activities that don’t contribute to the meeting output steal time. They distract the group from the real purpose of the meeting.
2. Know people’s names and faces
An effective facilitator helps a group work together to achieve the meeting output. It is difficult to help a group if you don’t know the people in it. If there are people in the group you don’t know, take a moment to familiarise yourself with their face and name. That makes it easier to include them in the discussion.
3. Track progress towards the goal/output
Meeting attendees contribute to the goal of the meeting. But it’s the facilitator who’s responsible for helping the group achieve the end result. A key part of this is measuring the progress towards the goal through the meeting. If you track the progress you will know when to speed up the discussion and if another meeting is needed to complete the goal.
4. Be aware of the time
A facilitator must always keep an eye on the clock. Time keeping helps track progress towards the meeting output. It tells you if you need to speed up, and it ensure you aren’t surprised by the end of the meeting. A good facilitator knows before the end of the meeting if the goal will me achieved. They also know how much time they need for the summary and wrap up at the end. If you don’t keep track of time you are likely to run out of time and have to rush the last few minutes of the meeting. That rarely leads to a good result.
5. Stop a topic if it isn’t relevant
Conversations are not rigid. They follow lines of thinking down different paths and one topic may lead to another and then another. As a facilitator your job is to help the group achieve the specific output for the meeting. If a topic isn’t relevant to the meeting purpose and output it is taking time away from the real goal. Stop these topics and refocus the discussion on the purpose and output for the meeting.
6. Be open to adding new topics
In meetings, topics come up that don’t relate to the main purpose of the meeting. Many of these topics are distractions and should be stopped so the meeting can focus on the main objective. But, sometimes a topic comes up that is valuable. It may be tangential to the meeting purpose, or it may relate to something totally different. When a new topic comes up you should consider if it is valuable enough to take time away from the meeting purpose. If it is, help facilitate the discussion to achieve the new purpose for the meeting.
7. Don’t do all the talking yourself
Being the facilitator doesn’t mean you have to do all the talking. In fact, it means the opposite. A facilitator helps guide the discussion in a group — the discussion should be among the people in the meeting.
8. Pay attention to who is talking
Paying attention to who is talking means more than listening politely. It means noticing who is talking. Are they talking because they are the loudest? Or because they are the best person to contribute to the topic? Have they been the main person contributing for most of the meeting? When a facilitator pays attention to who is talking they are better able to guide the conversation. They can bring other people into the discussion and help have a balanced discussion.
9. Pay attention to who isn’t talking
It’s easy to pay attention to whomever is speaking in a meeting. But a facilitator should also pay attention to everyone else. You can tell a lot from the body language and facial expressions of the people who aren’t speaking. Are they bored or frustrated? Do they agree with the speaker? Have they mentally checked out of the conversation? Observing the non-speakers helps the facilitator assess the engagement and agreement in the room.
10. Invite quiet participants to speak
Meetings are often dominated by two or three people. There is always someone with an opinion to share, or the confident person who has no problem speaking up. But, they shouldn’t be the only ones to contribute to the meeting output. Everyone invited to the meeting is there for a reason and has something to contribute. A good facilitator helps balance the voices in the discussion. Notice who isn’t speaking and find ways to invite them into the discussion.
Well prepared meetings can fall apart if the conversation isn’t guided. Apply these tips for facilitating better meetings and you’ll have a good discussion. The meeting will stay focused on the desired output, and will include all the people in the room. Plus, it’ll improve your chances of getting the outcome you want.
For more details on each of these tips for facilitating better meetings, check out the one-minute videos on my YouTube channel.
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