How to Chair or Facilitate Effective Meetings

How to Chair or Facilitate Effective Meetings

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As a manager, you spend a considerable amount of time calling for and leading meetings. However not all meetings are productive and some may even seem like a waste of time.

One of the most valuable tools a manager can have in his toolkit is the ability to facilitate effective meetings in order to make the most of the time your team spends together.

Healthy teams meet frequently to discuss issues, problems, solutions and decisions that need to be taken together. Sometimes meetings can also be for the purpose of educating team members or to share information with each other.

As a manager you may have certain scheduled meetings that take place and you may also feel the need to schedule impromptu meetings as when issues come up. Regardless of the type of meeting or the purpose, you can still learn how to facilitate these meetings effectively in order to reach conclusions, make decisions and solve problems.

Being a facilitator means that you need to do some work both before the meeting in terms of sending the agenda, setting the purpose etc. You would also need to do some work after the meeting is over, such as circulating the minutes of the meeting and following up on any action items.

A meeting has three parts and you will use different techniques to facilitate each portion:

– The opening

– The discussion

– The conclusion

Tips to Facilitate Meetings

Over the next couple of pages we will look at why it is important to facilitate meetings, what you need to do before and after a meeting, and what to do during the three stages of meetings—opening, discussion and conclusion.

1. What is facilitation and why you should do it?

Facilitation is a process through which a facilitator will guide the members of a meeting to share ideas, opinions, experiences and expertise in order to achieve a common goal and agreeable action plan.

Facilitation allows your team to reach a higher level of thinking and planning, as well as focuses on commitment to the decisions made during the meeting.

As a facilitator you must be able to:

  • Make everyone in the meeting feel comfortable
  • Encourage participation
  • Prevent and manage conflict
  • Listen, observe and guide the group
  • Ensure that quality decisions are made
  • Ensure that the meeting is focused on the outcome

2. What to do before the meeting?

  • Clarify the purpose of the meeting
  • List the desired outcomes of the meeting at the top of the agenda
  • Determine how much time you have available for the meeting
  • Design an agenda which will accomplish the outcomes you have written down keeping in mind the timelines you have.

3. What to do at the beginning of the meeting?

  • Clarify the purpose and outcomes with the group, you can use statements like “the purpose of today’s meeting is to…”, “During this meeting we will…”
  • Make sure that the group understands and agrees with the purpose
  • Review the agenda
  • Set any ground rules for behavior
  • Assign the roles of note taker and timekeeper
  • Set times for different items on the agenda
  • Begin by welcoming and introducing participants if they are unknown to each other.

4. What to do during the meeting?

  • Use active listening skills and summarise key points occasionally.
  • Ask questions to deepen or broaden conversations
  • Ask team members to clarify their points and check for understand by paraphrasing what they say.
  • Record what action is to be taken, who will do it, by when and what support is needed.
  • Remind the group of the norms if people are talking at the same time or if the group goes off track.
  • Put off track items in the ‘parking lot’ for later review and discussion.

5. What to do at the end of the meeting?

  • Review and check for agreement on action items.
  • Debrief and review the meeting by asking people how the felt about the meeting and what they thing could be done better.
  • Take up any issues that are pending and decide a follow up time and date to discuss them.
  • Go through the meeting minutes and agree on a follow up meeting date and time to review action items.

6. After the meeting is over

  • Ensure that the meeting minutes are written up and circulated
  • Follow up with people and make sure they understand the next steps that need to be taken.
  • Block calendars for the follow up meeting.

7. Important meeting behaviour

As a manager, your team models their own behaviour after yours, set the tone for appropriate meeting behaviour by keeping these tips in mind.

  • Use appropriate body language
  • Use positive language through the meeting
  • Make eye contact with everyone in the room
  • Be polite yet firm when the group strays off topic or does not adhere to group norms
  • Watch the time and keep the group on track
  • Encourage people to talk by asking for their opinions or by asking questions