Guidelines for Facilitating a Meeting

Guidelines for  Facilitating a Meeting

To facilitate a meeting you need handle the meeting in such a way that it takes the focus away from one leader and distributes leadership to all the members of the group. Facilitation is often contrasted to presentation where information is delivered to a group. Presentation is leader-centered while facilitation is group-centered.

The Meeting Facilitator

The facilitator is the person responsible for managing the process of the group-centered meeting. The Facilitator helps the group to arrive at their objective by ensuring everyone’s contribution is heard and that the processes being used are productive. He or she may also be required to help set meeting structures and manage conflicts.

Effective facilitators remain neutral to the discussion and need to be acceptable to everyone involved. They should not take a position on the issues raised nor should they advocate a solution. The objectivity of the facilitator will encourage the group members to voice their opinions. To become an effective facilitator, he or she needs to have knowledge of group process and an appreciation of democratic management. Keen observation and sensitivity are also a must-have for a facilitator to be effective.

Planning a Facilitated Meeting

The following are some steps to take when preparing for a facilitated meeting:

  • Find the right venue. The meeting venue should be conducive to comfortable discussion. Make sure you have all the required materials such as markers, nametags and flip chart paper. If breakaway rooms will be used, make sure they are also adequately prepared.
  • Set enough time for the facilitated meeting, it should not be rushed.
  • Prepare a facilitation plan. The facilitator should not go blindly into a meeting; it always pays to be prepared. He or she should know the objective of the meeting, the expectations of the group and the profile of the participants.
  • Plan how the meeting will be documented. To assist with the follow up process, the meeting should be documented.
  • The facilitator should also prepare internally before facilitating a meeting. He or she should be in a relaxed frame of mind before facilitating.

Encouraging Participation in the Meeting

These are some of the ways a facilitator can encourage participation in the meeting:

  • Provide the participants with some preparation guidelines in the meeting agenda.
  • Make sure everyone is comfortable before starting the meeting.
  • Make sure that all participants know that participation is not just welcome but integral to the process.
  • Acknowledge all contributions both verbally and non-verbally.
  • Be careful not to respond to a contribution in a way that may be seen as devaluing the contribution.
  • Encourage participation by directly asking everyone their opinion on a subject matter.
  • Build on responses by integrating each member’s response with that of other members.
  • Contribution can also be encouraged by intentionally keeping silent.
  • Thanking each member for their contribution can encourage greater involvement in succeeding meetings.

Gathering Information during the Meeting

The following are some techniques that a facilitator may use to gather information during the meeting:

  • In the Go-round technique, each member gets a turn to speak without getting interrupted.
  • Break out groups can be formed to divide the participants into smaller groups. A representative from each group will share the group’s point of view.
  • The brainstorming technique involves getting as many ideas from the group in a limited time. Any idea is verbalized whether good or bad. When the time is up the ideas are discussed by the group.
  • The Fishbowl Method may be used when an intense discussion of a subject is needed, but the group is large and the time is limited. In this technique, a sample of the group discusses the topic while the rest function as observers.

Synthesizing and Summarizing

Synthesis is an integration of key points in the discussion and summarizing is a recap of what has transpired during the meeting. The following are some ways the facilitator can synthesise or summarize during the meeting:

  • Let the participants summarize or synthesize themselves.
  • Ask a participant to provide a synthesis or summary.
  • Offer a tentative synthesis or summary and seek for the group’s clarification.
  • Refer back to the agenda or published documentation.

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How to Chair a Meeting

How to Chair a Meeting

Chairing a meeting is a leadership role requiring confidence and excellent communication skills. Chairing a meeting requires practice and takes time to develop. In this article, we will look at techniques that will make you a more effective chairperson.

Starting the Meeting on the Right Foot

It is important that the meeting starts on the right foot. Practicing your opening is the best way to become better at it. Over time, you will develop your style, which will be comfortable to you. The following are some guidelines to follow when opening a meeting:

  • Open the meeting by welcoming and greeting the participants
  • Introduce yourself
  • Introduce those attendees that are special guests
  • Share the need-to-know things like logistics, bathroom location, fire exits, and general meeting format
  • Discuss the purpose of the meeting and give a brief overview of the agenda
  • Discuss how the meeting is going to run

The Role of the Meeting Agenda

The meeting agenda plays a vital role without which you are sure to experience time and participant management problems. The following is a list of items the agenda accomplishes:

  • The agenda communicates the meeting topics
  • It communicates who the presenters are
  • Specifies the time allotment for each speaker
  • It clarifies the meeting objectives
  • Outlines the meeting in increments of time
  • Provides a checklist of things to accomplish in the meeting
  • Allows attendees to see both the beginning and the end of the meeting

Keeping the Meeting on Track

Clear expectations about how time management will be used in the meeting is a sure way to keep the meeting on track. If expectations are set up out front, it will put the presenters at ease knowing that that they will not be caught off guard. As chairperson, you should also feel confident to interrupt the presenter when necessary. The following are some tips for keeping the meeting on track:

  • Set expectations by letting your presenter and attendees know you intend on managing the agenda vigorously.
  • Manage the time of your meeting with a timer. Keep to the allotted time for the presentation time as well as the question and answer time. Provide a warning time for the presenters so that they do not have to stop abruptly.
  • Do not hesitate to interrupt presenters when it is necessary. When you set expectations upfront, you know that the presenters will expect the interruptions. You should also be ready to call time on questions and answers so that you can move on to the next topic.
  • Avoid being harsh but politely warn people that their time is nearly up. To keep the meeting running with plenty of participation, you want to the treat the participants and presenters with respect at all time.

Effectively Dealing With Overtime

If the meeting starts running overtime, you will begin to lose the attention of the attendees. The key to dealing with overtime is to acknowledge before it happens. If you need to go over the time allotted, you need to consider if the room is available for overtime and if there are attendees that have to travel and cannot stay. If you do not deal effectively with overtime, frustration will build among the attendees. Have a plan in place so you know what to do when the meeting runs longer than expected. The following are some tips for effectively dealing with overtime in meetings:

  • Warn the attendees well in advance that the meeting will
  • Determine how much more time will be needed.
  • Communicate the extra time to the attendees.
  • In smaller meetings, you can gain consensus whether or not to go into overtime.
  • Allow, those who have to leave, time to do so discreetly.
  • In the event that overtime is not possible, determine what part of the agenda will be missed and plan an alternative way of getting the information to the attendees.

Holding the Participants Accountable

Keeping your participants accountable involves communication. The following are some of the ways you can hold your participants accountable:

  • Set your expectations in advance in the invitation to the meeting. Outline what you expect from them so that you hold them to that expectation.
  • Clarify the consequences of not participating and let the participants know how you intend to hold them accountable.
  • Follow through on the things you said you would do. It will ensure that you have the respect of the participants, and they will naturally be accountable to you because of your work ethic.

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Establishing Clear Roles and Responsibilities in Your Meetings

Establishing Clear Roles and Responsibilities in Your Meetings

To manage your meetings more effectively, you need to establish clear roles and responsibilities in your meetings.  Establishing these roles will help to give all the participants a clear understanding of what is taking place during the meeting. Assigning roles also alleviates the tasks you have to manage, leaving you free to focus on the role you are to manage within the meeting time. In this article, we will look at the role of the Chairperson, Minute Taker and the Attendees. You will also learn how these roles may vary for large and small meetings.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Meeting Chairperson

It is the responsibility of the meeting chairperson to direct the proceedings of the meeting. They are your time managers, referees and enforcers of the rules. If you delegate the responsibility of the chairman to someone else, make sure that you are confident that they can handle the role. The chairperson must be able to lead the meeting and be firm throughout the meeting.

The responsibilities of the chairperson include:

  • Being aware of the rules of the meeting
  • Keeping to the aim or objective of the meeting
  • Remaining fair with all participants
  • Starting the meeting
  • Handling the transition from one agenda topic to the next
  • Introducing the next presenter
  • Handling any disruptions that may arise

Some qualities a chairperson should possess include:

  • They should have some level of authority
  • Demonstrate flexibility
  • Remain impartial throughout the meeting
  • Display maturity

The role of the chairperson is an essential one and should not be combined with additional roles. They should be free to focus on the tasks associated with the role of the chairperson. If you assign the role of chairperson to someone else, make sure you meet with the person in advance of the meeting to coordinate the agenda and set expectation.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Minute Taker

Some of the qualities of a good minute taker include excellent listening and writing skills, attention to detail, and strong communication skills. The person you select for the role should be able to maintain focus and not miss crucial meeting information. It is best to select someone who is not directly involved in the meeting.

Tasks of the minute taker before the start of the meeting:

  • Determine what tool to use for recording the minutes
  • Become familiar with the names of the attendees and who they are
  • Obtain the agenda and familiarize themselves with the topics

Tasks of the minute taker during the meeting:

  • Take attendance
  • Note the time the meeting begins
  • Write down the main ideas presented in the meeting as well as the name of the contributor of that information
  • Write down decision made and who supported and opposed the decision
  • Note items to be discussed at the next meeting
  • Note the end time of the meeting

Tasks of the minute taker during the meeting:

  • Type up the minutes of the meeting
  • Proofread the minutes
  • Send the document to the meeting owner

Roles and Responsibilities of the Attendees

Although you cannot force responsibility on to your attendees, you can attempt to influence them. The meeting attendees are the biggest success factor of your meeting. The following are responsibilities your attendees could assume:

  • Be prepared to contribute to the meeting
  • Arrive early for the meeting
  • Prepare for the meeting by jotting down ideas and questions ahead of the meeting
  • Read the agenda before the meeting
  • Ask questions during the meeting
  • Take notes during the meeting
  • Share ideas in the meeting
  • Avoid carrying side conversations
  • Remove distractions like cell phones
  • Keep to the allotted time

You can communicate the expectations of the meeting attendees in the meeting invitation or send a separate email to the attendees.

Variations of Roles for Large and Small Meetings

Managing larger meetings requires more resources and assigned roles than for smaller meetings. In small meetings, one person can assume multiple roles. The following is a list of roles you may need to add for a large meeting:

  • An extra minute taker for better accuracy
  • Someone to distribute the meeting materials
  • A person to greet attendees
  • Someone to run the audio and visual equipment
  • Someone to manage the hospitality aspect
  • A co-chairperson
  • A person managing the presentations

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How to Set Up a Meeting Venue

How to Set Up a Meeting Venue

There are many things you need to take into consideration when you set up the meeting venue.  It is often attention to the small details that make for a successful meeting.

The Essentials of Setting Up the Meeting Venue

The following is a list of essentials in setting up the meeting venue:

  • Sufficient number of tables and chairs
  • Power strips for laptops and other electronic devices
  • Audio and visual set up
  • Whiteboard with markers and eraser
  • Lectern
  • Water
  • Verify the room temperature is comfortable
  • Microphone for large meetings
  • Projector
  • Laptop
  • Verify room is located in quiet and private area

Get to the venue early enough that you have sufficient time to set up the meeting venue before the participants arrive.

Extra Touches That Will Make the Meeting More Meaningful

When it comes to adding extra touches, keep the purpose of the meeting in mind. The following is a list of extra touches that you can incorporate in your preparation to make the meeting more meaningful to your participants:

  • Name tents already printed and set up on the tables
  • Table with name tags for each participant already printed
  • Projector on with a welcome message illuminating on the screen
  • Signage outside the meeting room professionally done
  • Keepsake or logo item at each place setting
  • Music before meeting starts and during breaks
  • Folder with all meeting materials inside
  • Candy or mints at the tables
  • Posters or visual aids posted around the meeting room
  • Video playing relevant materials on the screen before meeting starts
  • Coat rack during winter months

Choosing the Seating Arrangement

The basic seating arrangements that you can choose for the meeting are as follows:

  • Conference Style Seating. This is the basic rectangular or oval shaped table and is good for short meetings with less than 30 participants. It is usually used for small training sessions and close interactions.
  • U-shape Seating. In this setup the tables form a U shape. This setup is effective where face-to-face interaction is required but also accommodates larger groups.
  • T-Shape Seating. In this setup the tables form a T shape. This setup is suitable for face-to-face and large group meetings. It allows for leaders to sit at the cross point.
  • Classroom Style Seating. This type of seating is best when learning is going to take place, and the participants need to take notes. This style can be used for both large and small groups.

The following are some suggestions for seating arrangements based on the meeting type:

  • Planning meeting: conference style seating
  • Product sales training: classroom style seating
  • Strategy sharing meeting: T-shape style seating
  • Project update meeting: U-shape style seating

The physical arrangement of the meeting room should always focus on providing a comfortable set up where all participants can view the presenter, other participants, screens, flipchart and whiteboards.

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How to Effectively Plan and Prepare for Your Meeting

How to Effectively Plan and Prepare for Your Meeting

Your planning and preparation activity is vital to the success of your meeting. In the planning and preparing phase you will be defining the purpose of your meeting, the people who should attend, and the place of the meeting. Planning and preparing for your meeting helps to reduce the stress that may result from managing a meeting.

Determining the Meeting Participants

Determining your meeting participants is an important planning step. Who attends your meeting could help or hinder the meeting dynamics. Think about the purpose of the meeting to help determine who you should invite. For example, if you are meeting to resolve a problem, invite only those who are capable of providing solutions to the problem. Having people who cannot contribute to the meeting will exclude them and affect the meeting environment. The following are some common reasons to call a meeting:

  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • Conflict resolution
  • Project initiation
  • Planning
  • Brainstorming

Once you determine your meeting purpose, you can list all the names of the participants you wish to attend. Once this list is created, then determine what each participant will contribute to the meeting. If a participant is deemed a non-contributor, they should be removed from the list. When all non-contributors are removed, you should have a good list of participants for your meeting.

Planning the Time and Place of the Meeting

There are several considerations you must address when planning the time and place of your meeting. For instance, the time of day is important if your meeting is meant to be a brainstorming session or problem-solving meeting. Setting these types of meetings right after lunch or late in the day could be a frustrating experience. Choosing the correct venue for your meeting is essential to its success. Try to schedule your meeting in a well-lit spacious room. If the meeting topic is of a sensitive nature, then getting a room with privacy will make participants more comfortable to discuss the issue.

Creating the Meeting Agenda

  • Seek topics from your participants. Send an email to the list of participants you created, asking for agenda topics. Give a brief explanation of the purpose of the meeting and an idea of what you are looking for in terms of topics.
  • Organize the topics into a list. Once you receive the topics, organize them into a list along with the time and the name of the presenter. This will give you the ability to scan through the list, narrowing it down to the topics you will select for the agenda.
  • Assess which topics are relevant to the meeting purpose. Scratch out those topics you do not intend to use.
  • Pick the number of relevant topics that will fit your meeting time. Review the time of the remaining topics. Select the enough topics to fill the time of your meeting minus ten minutes. Give yourself ten minutes for meeting overrun. If you go over, you will end on time. If you do not, then you get to adjourn your meeting early, making everyone happy.

Gathering the Materials for the Meeting

You need to determine which materials you need for the meeting and acquire them in advance.

  • Stationary: this is all the paper you will need at the meeting. It includes notepads, sticky notes, index cards, envelopes, tape, paper clips, folders, and flip chart.
  • Handouts: many times you or your presenters will need to distribute handouts. There could be a worksheet or an outline from an electronic presentation. Consult with your presenters and acquire any handouts they may use.
  • Organizer: Using an organizer like a portable accordion file is an easy way to file your handouts and other stationary materials in one container. The filing system will allow you to file the documents in an orderly fashion, making distribution of the materials more professional.
  • Writing tools: this includes pens, markers, highlighters, and dry erase markers you may need for your meeting.
  • Special requests: from time to time, your presenters may make a special request. An example could be a poster. Ask your presenters ahead of time for special requests.

Sending Meeting Invitations

It is essential to have a consistent and clear method of structuring your meeting invitation:

  • The purpose of the meeting must be stated up front. Be specific with your purpose and attach the meeting agenda to the invitation.
  • The time and place where the meeting should be determined ahead of time and included in the invitation. Provide clear instruction on the exact location.
  • Create a sense of binding agreement by setting expectations, so you get the most responses as soon as possible with a level of commitment. Include a cancellation

Making Logistical Arrangements

There are several areas where you should be planning the logistics of the meeting:

  • Consider the space in which you plan to hold your meeting.
  • Identify who will need to travel to your meeting.
  • Determine if you need to organize meals.
  • Arrange audio and visual equipment for the meeting.
  • Do you need signs and posters for the meeting?

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