Before the Meeting
- Make sure everyone knows the time and place.
- Develop an agenda.
- An agenda gives people time to plan, to think over things that will be discussed, to do assignments and bring necessary information and materials. It doesn't have to be set in stone - you can always add and adjust as needed, even during the meeting.
- The agenda can be printed and distributed, either in advance or at the meeting. Or, it can be written on a chalkboard or whiteboard where everyone can see it. This helps keep people on topic and lets them know what will be covered and when.
- An agenda should include all of the following items that apply to your group:
- Additions and approval of the agenda
- Reading, corrections, and approval of the previous meeting's minutes
- Treasurer's report
- Committee reports
- Announcements/upcoming events
- Set next meeting (date, time, place, facilitator)
- Make sure the room is open and set up properly.
During the Meeting
- Start on time
- Make sure someone is taking notes.
- Encourage group discussion to get all points of view.
- Turn questions back to the group for their input. Ask people to comment on something just said. Compliment people on their ideas and thank them for their input. Ask open-ended questions. You may need to ask the more quiet people for their thoughts, and tactfully interrupt the longwinded ones to move the discussion along.
- Set a positive, enthusiastic tone.
- Expect people to be motivated, creative, and productive. They will usually live up - or down - to your expectations.
- Stay on top of things.
- It's part of your job as facilitator to manage the traffic and help the discussion move along.
- If several people are trying to talk at once, ask them to take turns. Try to identify who was first, second, etc. to speak up, and make sure to get back to everyone in their turn.
- If the discussion is getting off-topic, point this out and redirect it back on course.
- If someone is getting hostile, argumentative, or needlessly negative, tactfully intervene and try to turn the discussion in a more constructive direction.
- If necessary, ask the group to agree to a time limit on a discussion that might take too long. You might want to agree to limit each speaker's time, or say that no one can speak a second time until everyone has spoken once.
- If the group is spinning its wheels and people are only repeating themselves, restate and summarize the issues and ask if there is at least the beginnings of consensus.
- If it just doesn't seem that the group can make a good decision right now, suggest tabling the matter until another time. You may want to ask someone to bring back more information, or form a committee to work on the issue.
- Don't use your position as facilitator to impose your personal ideas and opinions on the group.
- If you have strong feelings on a particular issue, you may want to step aside and let someone else facilitate that discussion. At the very least, keep your own comments to a minimum, try to let others speak first, and identify them as your personal beliefs, outside of your role as facilitator. Avoid criticizing the ideas of others--your position gives your comments undue extra weight.
- End on time.
- Nothing makes people dread and avoid meetings more than knowing they're likely to go on and on and consume far more of their time than they want to give.
After the Meeting
- Make sure the minutes are written up and, if necessary, posted or distributed.
- Follow up with people.
- Thank them for their input. Make sure they understand assignments and have what they need to do them.
Written by Hayeon Lee, Olivia Park and HyunJoo Lee in 2010.