Get More Out Of Your Meetings
Reach Goals Faster and Easier With A Discussion Facilitator
The best way to win someone over is to use arguments they want to hear. But, to know what those are, you have to get them talking. And that’s… not always as simple as it sounds - you’ve probably faced the awkward situation in which a discussion turns into a monologue. Your monologue. Here’s how to get everyone to speak their mind.
First things first, ask yourself this question: “What is a meeting?”. Think about it. Ready? Good.
A meeting should be an organized discussion, with clear rules and a clear, specific, measurable goal. As we’ve talked before, any meeting should be planned ahead. Here is, again, what you need to do before welcoming your guests:
- know who your audience is
- know what interests they might have
- know how to create a good mood
- have a small speech prepared, to get everyone comfortable
- be ready for smalltalk (we’ll cover some ice-breakers next week)
- have properly stocked and prepared your meeting space
- be ready to listen more than talk
- be focused on the relationship more than the deal
You can read the details here: Booking A Meeting Room? Get Your Smalltalk ready!
Now, all this is fine and dandy, but this kind of research and preparation takes a lot of time. So you should have someone in your office appointed to a very specific, crucial job: Meeting Facilitation.
“The “facilitator” is a guide or “discussion leader” for the group. The process of facilitation is a way of providing leadership without taking the reigns. A facilitator’s job is to get others to assume responsibility and take the lead.” (Source: Virginia.edu)
There many ways in which someone can gain the skills necessary to become a good meeting facilitator. Check out the classes listed at the bottom of this article. But, before you do, here are some tips/ tactics that you can pick up and use before your next meeting.
So, let’s assume you’ve appointed the Meeting Facilitator. Everybody knows what her/his role is. This is what they need to do next.
Not knowing someone’s name is embarassing. Not knowing a thing about them is hazardous - and you should never assume that everybody knows everybody. So make sure you don’t skip introductions at the first meeting or whenever anyone knew comes along and takes part.
Go For A Group Agreement
Rules are difficult to enforce. And, once enforced, they’re bound to be broken, because they’re not internalized. If, however, the rules are accepted from the get-go, if they emerge from an informal discussion that takes place before the actual meeting, that’s a whole other thing.
Your Facilitator should take some time to make a set of rules and then propose them to the group. Things like “breaks every 45 minutes”, “phones set to silent” are a good start. If you can, assess how long it takes for the initial enthusiasm at the beginning of a meeting to wear out. That’s when a break should start. Analyze what disruptive behaviours take place during your regular meetings and weed them out with rules.
These rules must be accepted openly by all members of the meeting and displayed out in the open.
Right after setting the rules, set the goals. Then, spread them across an XY axis like so:
This way, in case you have to cut the meeting short, you’ll know if you’ve covered the big points or if you need a second one. Even more so, it makes the two parties assess their positions and decide, from the very beginning, what they really want to obtain.
In any form of debate, conflicts are bound to arise. Be on the lookout and nip them in the bud - whenever a personal conflict presents itself, or if the debate pushes people into raising their voices, remind the participants that they’re there to reach a common goal. Restate that goal, then highlight how the two parties involved in the quarrel aren’t actually disagreeing or, if they are, that there is a middle-ground to be found. When push comes to shove, have someone from outside the meeting room come with refreshments. Apologize for the interruption and play the good host.
Reinforce Positive Decisions
Getting to an agreement is rarely easy. But you can make sure that once an agreement has been reached, the chances of it being broken diminish drastically. To do this, your Facilitator should write down, on a whiteboard/flipchart, every important thing you’ve agreed upon. These items should also be included in your follow-up email, to further reinforce them.
Ask clarifying questions
A facilitator’s job also includes reducing the amount of unclear information being presented to the whole group. That’s why, whenever you see someone in a closed position, act on the interpreted body language and check if there is anything hard to grasp about what is being discussed. Then ask for details. If you need to play a little dumber than you are, than you can do so. Summarize what has been said, in an easier to to understand manner, and ask for validation from the original speaker.
Evaluate The Outcomes And Provide Positive Feedback
Go back to the axis above - were all the goals talked about/ achieved? If not, find out why. Identify the next steps and get another round of “Yes, I agree” from across the room.
Congratulate everyone on what they have accomplished together. It doesn’t need to be something big and important, just be honest about it. Make everybody feel like their time was well-used, even if it was not.
Here are some Meeting Facilitator courses you (or a colleague of yours) can investigate: