Facilitation 103: How to run a meeting

Part 3 in the Facilitation series.

Previous post: Facilitation 102

Before the meeting, prepare the meeting space and send out the agenda.
Don’t waste your team’s time in setting up the space during the meeting time!

  • If possible, reserve the room ahead of the meeting time to give yourself time to prep.
  • Make sure you have enough chairs, post-its, markers, and whatever other supplies you need.
  • Make sure that the projector, videoconference equipment, conference call number, or any other technology is prepared before the meetings starts.
  • Build in breaks (and coffee!) — a good rule of thumb is 10 minutes of break for each hour of meeting.
  • Give people time to respond to the agenda and make changes in advance.
  • Make sure folks know what is expected of them:
    • What do they need to read or prepare in advance?
    • What do they need to bring to the meeting?

Which brings us to……
How to Facilitate a Meeting
Well-run meetings generally have three designated roles. These roles can usually be covered by the meeting attendees, though sometimes it’s wise to have a third party doing the facilitating.

  • Timekeeper
  • Note-taker
  • Facilitator

What does it mean to facilitate a meeting?
Why have a designated facilitator at your meeting? The function of a facilitator is to keep the meeting on track, keep the group focused on the stated goal, and guide discussions by asking key questions.  

Here are a few things you can do, to make sure your meeting goes well.

  1. Start and end on time. This is probably the thing we struggle with most, and if it happens once, it ripples out through the entire day, since the conference rooms are all booked back-to-back. Try to schedule 50 minute meetings rather than an hour, so you can make a graceful exit and let the next meeting start on time.
  1. Designate a time keeper, who will give time checks to the group.
  1. Designate a note-taker, and make sure that person understands where the notes are to be stored, and when they must be available and posted.
  1. Restate the purpose and scope of the meeting before beginning.
  1. Review the agenda. I like to have everybody in the room approve the agenda before beginning the meeting. It’s a nice way to make a social contract and build accountability in the team to prevent derailing. When you do an agenda approval, follow through: before allowing the meeting to shift focus, make sure the whole group has agreed to change focus.
  1. Make sure everybody understands the rules of engagement before the meeting begins. There are lots of things you can set up as rules (capturing off-topic ideas to be discussed later, approving the agenda, not permitting interrupting, not permitting phone calls or email checking, or allowing all of those things during breaks, using verbal or non-verbal agreement, for example) but the most important part is to make sure everybody’s clear on what is expected.

Next post: Facilitation 104

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