I’ve talked alot about the importance of running a good, efficient meeting, including how to improve meeting engagement and how to end them well. But, a good meeting only runs well if it is facilitated well from start to finish.
Ever Been in Meeting Hell?
When I’m in a poorly run meeting, I get distracted and find myself doing unproductive things like calculating the cost of the meeting (number of participants x approx cost per staff hour x number of hours/minutes). And if I’m distracted, there’s a good chance others are as well which means a whole lot of time is wasted (and productivity lost).
On the other hand, a well run meeting will keep participants engaged, productive, and feeling like the time is well spent.
What makes a good facilitator?
While some people are naturally good at getting a group to focus and get results, most of us simply need to learn or improve our skills in meeting facilitation.
To get you thinking about the areas you need to improve, I offer some of my favorite facilitation tips.
First – and very important – make sure the expectations of the meeting are agreed upon right from the start. Make a list on a flip chart that includes going over the agenda and agreeing to time limits on each issue and when the meeting will end. The list should include when breaks are expected and how long they will be. This first step will help you solve many of your meeting challenges. If things start to get off track, refer back to the agreements and timeline.
2. Offer thinking tools.
Many people think more creatively with their hands are busy. Try putting legos or pipe cleaners on the tables.
3. Keep a list of “parking lot” items.
Use a flip chart or white board and write the words PARKING LOT across the top. Anytime a participant goes off topic, stop them, capture the topic and write it on the parking lot list for future discussion.This helps you stay on topic and avoid spending time on items not on the agenda, that are better suited for further discussion at a later time.
4. Write it down.
Use a flip chart, white board, or scribe on a computer to capture any key points and decisions throughout the meeting.
5. Keep on time and on track.
Check in every 15 -30 min or so (depending on length of the meeting), and note where you are compared to the agenda and timeline. Note how much time you have before you need to move on. Give time limits for topics – say something like: we’re going to listen to the presentation, then will have 15 minutes to discuss. At the 15 minute mark, we will move on to the next item.
Consider using a stop watch, and announce when there are 3 minutes to go.
6. Encourage participation from your introverts.
It’s not unusual for 2 or 3 participants to dominate most meetings. Ask some of the less vocal participants for their thoughts. And, give those who need some time a minute or two to think first. Those members of the the team are good at observing and processing the information and often come up with the best questions or ideas if given the time and opportunity.
7. Take time to talk about next steps.
At the end of the meeting, make sure you leave time to recap any decisions, actions to be taken, assignments given and what happens next.
Using good facilitation tools will make a difference between faciliating the meeting from hell and one with a productive outcome. Practice these the next time you run a meeting. The more you do it, the more confidence you’ll have and the better your meetings will go!
Betty Lochner is the President and Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She is an award winning public servant, human resources professional, an author, and national speaker. To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit her website.
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