How to Facilitate a Meeting Like a Pro (A Step by Step Guide)

February 4, 2020
Meeting management discussions
Laila El Tawil
Written By
Laila El Tawil

Team meetings are an often-dreaded part of the work week for many. After a meeting, team members frequently feel like they’ve wasted their time. In fact, according to statistics cited by Inc., “the cost of poorly organized meetings in 2019 will reach $399 billion in the U.S.” However, team meetings don’t have to be a time and motivation drain for your business.

Knowing how to facilitate a meeting so that everyone walks away with important insights and information rather than sitting through meaningless presentations with glass-eyed stares can make a difference in how productive meetings are. The question is: “Do you know how to facilitate a meeting effectively?”

Before the next time you start a meeting, be sure to pick up a few tricks for facilitating meetings more effectively:


What is Meeting Facilitation?

Meeting facilitation is the art of helping a group of people start a meeting with clear goals and expectations so that everyone involved can walk away with a positive experience.

Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to facilitate a meeting effectively—setting only the most basic goals and neglecting to keep meetings on-topic. This limits the effectiveness of team meetings and leads to wasted time and labor (and possibly reducing employee engagement).

On the other hand, facilitating a meeting effectively can enhance its benefits.


Benefits of Team Meetings

What are the benefits of holding effective team meetings? When team meetings are conducted effectively, the benefits can include:

Helping Keep Everyone Informed:

Effective meetings help everyone on the team stay informed of critical developments or important information that they need. This helps to empower employees to do their work more efficiently and effectively (while taking into account important notes that could otherwise be missed).

Providing Clear Goals and Priorities:

What’s the most important thing your team should be working on? Do they know? Effective team meetings can help establish clear priorities so the most important work gets done first.

Identifying Obstacles to Productivity:

Many employees know about obstacles that are killing their team’s productivity, but don’t freely volunteer that information in meetings. They could be worried about throwing a team member under the proverbial bus, incidentally undermining a superior’s authority, or just plain apathetic about the issue. Facilitating meetings that not only allow, but actively encourage, people to share the things that are bothering them can be crucial for improving team productivity.

Creating a Sense of Investment:

Invested employees are much more likely to be productive than ones who feel that their work isn’t important. Team meetings can provide an opportunity to show everyone the impact of their work and why it matters—helping to improve employee engagement and productivity.


How to Facilitate a Meeting Effectively

So, how can you facilitate meetings more effectively to increase their benefits while avoiding wasted time and effort?

Here’s a quick, step-by-step guide to effective meeting facilitation:

  1. Assign Clear Roles and Responsibilities for Everyone:

    When creating your meeting agenda, consider the roles and responsibilities that each person should hold during the meeting. Establishing team meeting roles can help to make people more engaged with the meeting so they will remember important information better.

  2. Create (and Stick to) a Comprehensive Meeting Agenda:

    Meeting agendas are supposed to help guide discussions so that they remain on-topic (and thus valuable to the team). However, many meetings quickly get derailed. To prevent this problem, it’s important to not only have a solid meeting agenda ready from the start, but to make it visible to everyone before the meeting begins (and even to make it prominent during the meeting, for example, projecting it on a large screen in the meeting room). This way, people can be held to the topic at hand if they start going off on a tangent.

  3. Prepare a Means of Recording Important Notes:

    Whether you assign someone to be a dedicated note-taker, type/write meeting notes yourself, or record the meeting audio for later playback, it’s critical to have a means of recording (and then sharing) notes ready before you start a meeting. Organizing these notes and creating a list of important insights and key takeaways can help you capture ideas that may help your team be more productive later (or help avoid miscommunications that cause delays).

  4. Practice Good Listening Skills:

    While sticking to the agenda and making sure key information is shared is important, it’s also necessary to collect feedback from the team. Being a good listener helps instill trust in the team, allows you to get feedback you might otherwise miss, and can provide you with better insights from the meeting. So, treat employee comments with the respect they deserve, ask questions to encourage participation, and pay attention to not just what people are saying, but how they’re saying it.

  5. Consider Whether Any Action Items Will Be Put to a Vote:

    Is there something in the meeting agenda that requires a consensus from the whole team? Establish how the vote will be made before the team meeting starts.

  6. Be Prepared to Deal with Disruptions:

    As a meeting facilitator, your role is to be a neutral party who helps everyone walk away with the information that they need to know. This often means dealing with disruptions (both accidental and intentional). It’s important to know that these disruptions will happen in any given team meeting, regardless of how much preparation you’ve made or how many reminders about meeting etiquette you’ve delivered—and to take them in stride when they happen.

Consider creating handouts or PDF files that you can share with employees before facilitating a meeting so that everyone can follow the meeting agenda more easily. Having people put away electronic devices before starting the meeting can also help to reduce distractions (unless their smartphones, tablets, or laptops are necessary for a presentation).

After the meeting, consider creating a summary document with key takeaways, action items, and even a request for feedback about the meeting (such as whether the employees gained anything from it, what could have been done better, or what topics should be discussed in future meetings).

Need help with facilitating meetings more effectively?

Reach out to the team to learn how you could make assigning team meeting roles, capturing key takeaways, and creating positive results easier.


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