This week alone, over 55 million meetings will take place; unfortunately, research and surveys have suggested that anywhere between 30-50% of meetings are seen as ineffective and a waste of time by attendees.
The variance in a meeting being perceived as valuable and productive versus inefficient and a waste of time may lie with the person facilitating the meeting. A meeting facilitator plays a crucial role in guiding the meeting process. They keep the meeting on track regarding topics and time limits, ensure everyone is included in the conversation, and achieve the overall desired outcome for the meeting.
The meeting facilitator may vary depending on the size and purpose of the meeting. It may be the person leading the meeting, or it may be someone appointed to the role. In either case, many managers find themselves nervous and dreading the task at hand of facilitating a meeting.
Why Do Some People Fear Facilitating Meetings?
Many individuals do not like to be in the spotlight. When all eyes are on the meeting facilitator, it can generate feelings of self-doubt. Individuals may begin to think that if the meeting does not go well, it will negatively impact their image and credibility, which only exacerbates their fears of being rejected and embarrassed.
To help you overcome the fears associated with facilitating meetings and ensure the meeting you’re facilitating is productive and engaging, it is essential you feel prepared and in control. Start by applying the following five tips the next time you’re tasked with facilitating a meeting:
- Have a plan
- Stay on track
- Remain neutral on topics of discussion
- Focus on participation and inclusion
- Ask for help
Have a Plan
If you’ve been facilitating meetings for a while you may fall into the trap of winging it or improvising on the spot. This is a huge mistake. As meetings are already perceived as a big-time waster, do not play into the narrative by not being prepared.
Facilitating a meeting should play out like a story and include a beginning, middle, and end.
- Create a thoughtful agenda that flows and is distributed before the meeting. Not sure where to start? Here is a meeting agenda template to generate ideas.
- To kick off the meeting, highlight the objective for why the meeting was called and why it is beneficial and important that the objective of the meeting is achieved.
- Review any established meeting ground rules.
- Follow the outlined agenda items and keep each discussion to the time allotted in the agenda.
- Conclude with an action plan, accountabilities, and next steps.
Stay On TrACK
Nothing gets attendees more frustrated than starting a meeting late or one that veers off the agenda. The role of a facilitator is to ensure the meeting goal is achieved, the conversation is fruitful, and decisions are made. To stay on track, here are a few best practices:
- Always start and stop on the meeting on time
- Follow the timelines established in your agenda. If a topic is going longer than the time allotted, poll the audience to see if more time should be given to the topic, or if the agenda should move on.
- Strop tangents by using the parking lot technique of recording topics or questions that are not related to the agenda but should be visited
Remain nEUTRAL ON TOPICS OF DISCUssion
When the goal of the meeting is collaboration and idea generation, the meeting facilitator should remain neutral and unbiased so as not to sway the direction of the conversation. Instead, their role is to focus on the facilitation process by reminding attendees of the goal, posing questions to the group, and building links between ideas.
focus on participation and inclusion
A meeting facilitator should ensure every voice is heard in the meeting. Periodically, asking the group if anyone has anything to share will help ensure those who would like to speak up in the meeting have the opportunity while not putting an individual on the spot.
In addition, a meeting facilitator should manage conduct and reinforce meeting ground rules. For example, if a strong personality is monopolizing the conversation, the meeting facilitator needs to step in to ensure everyone has a chance to share.
If you want to be sure you are achieving this, you may even look at creating and sending out a meeting survey to receive feedback and help you improve in this area.
Ask for Help
Thinking through all the things that could go wrong and who you may need help from is crucial in the meeting planning process. Assigning roles and responsibilities to others will help ensure you have a backup in the meeting so you can focus on facilitating. A few key roles may include:
- Advisor: This could be your leader, a mentor, or coach who you seek feedback on your agenda and presentation before the meeting
- Note Taker: A person who records decisions, parking lot items, and assigned accountabilities
- Tech: A meeting, whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid, should have a tech lead assigned to troubleshoot any presentation or attendee technical issues
- Timekeeper: An individual tasked with watching the time and alerting the meeting facilitator when time limits are close to being reached
A meeting can be an opportunity to align individuals, drive focus, and generate ideas and decisions when facilitated well. However, being a meeting facilitator is a skill, and like any skill, it can be honed with knowledge and practice. Attending a program like Niagara Institute’s Speaking as a Leader or Leadership Fundamentals is an excellent way to build your skills and, in turn, confidence, so you’re ready to lead your first meeting with employees or amplify the impact of your current meetings.
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