Think about meetings you’ve attended, especially those you believed were a waste of time. Frustrations run high when you show up and nothing is accomplished. An effective facilitator can transform “another useless meeting” into a productive experience.
How can you become a better facilitator? Try talking less and listening more. Listening encourages participation. When you speak, have a purpose: ask leading questions or offer suggestions if participants seem reluctant to contribute.
Productive facilitators keep everyone focused on the agenda and expected outcomes, leading the group through the process without getting distracted.
The best meeting managers are sensitive to people, too, responding to individual and collective needs. This may require encouraging the reticent and tactfully discouraging the dominant. You are best able to do this if you get to know participants before the meeting.
A facilitator is responsible for making things easier. This requires doing your homework, rather than facilitating on the fly. Meeting leadership requires assuming three roles – planner, manager, and terminator.
Planning activities include:
– Clarifying objectives/expected outcomes
– Determining a realistic time frame
– Selecting an appropriate group process
– Distributing an agenda, in advance
– Confirming logistics (materials, seating, etc.)
The managing role balances task orientation with people orientation:
– Setting the stage (what is the meeting vision or mission?)
– Starting and stopping on time
– Spreading participation
– Stimulating creative and critical thinking (toward expected outcomes)
– Promoting cooperative relationships
– Developing the group and its members
Terminating roles include:
– Evaluating the meeting and/or process
– Providing feedback to participants
– Reporting conclusions
– Distributing minutes or a written summary
– Encouraging responsible follow-up and accountability
Remember, your goal is to facilitate for results. Visualize what you want to happen, then plan, manage and terminate an efficient meeting. You and participants will walk away with a feeling of accomplishment and time well spent.