Meeting. Just the word itself can evoke feelings of fear, dread, and panic. But it doesn’t have to. The primary reason to call a meeting is to share or brainstorm information, or to develop a plan of action for accomplishing a goal. That’s it.
Unfortunately, what often results from meetings are frustrated participants, unclear expectations, and, almost inevitably, more meetings. Often, a meeting will end with no decision being made or articulated, making it impossible for participants to turn decisions into action.
One of the best cures for meeting ills—that will make sure your meetings are the best investment of your time and resources—is to find someone to facilitate your meetings. Someone who knows the essentials of good facilitation.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts that every facilitator should keep in mind when preparing for, running, and following up on a meeting:
1. Create an agenda, complete with meeting goals, and stick to it.
In order for a meeting to be considered a success, there needs to be a tangible outcome—something actionable. Without an agenda, participants will feel free to bring up loosely related subjects that aren’t critical to achieving the goals of the meeting. Good ideas and purposeful tangents can happen within the construct of a solid agenda with strong facilitation.
2. Watch the clock.
The agenda should detail specific amounts of time for the discussion of each item. A good facilitator will keep track of the clock, remind the participants of the time, and generally keep the meeting on track.
3. Allow some time for fun.
Yes, meetings are work. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be fun. Facilitators should be relaxed enough to allow joking and small talk, but know when it is time to bring the focus back to the task at hand.
4. Turn ideas and decisions into action.
A meeting’s success can be measured by the amount of forward motion that occurs after everyone is dismissed. Too often, however, participants leave a meeting unsure of where to go next. Good facilitators should get agreement on every decision, help the group develop an action item to accompany every decision, and assign a person to complete each action. This information should be recorded in the meeting minutes.
5. Learn from your mistakes.
At the end of the meeting, before excusing the group, the facilitator should take a moment to get feedback from the group. That feedback should be used to improve future meetings.
If your company needs to cure its meeting ills, a solid facilitator may be just what the doctor ordered to get things on the road to recovery.
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