Education Opinion

Five Tips for Facilitating a Meeting

By Elena Aguilar — February 13, 2014 3 min read
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I got a coaching related question this morning about how to facilitate a meeting. What were my top tips? Here you go!

These are my top five tips for facilitating a meeting.

1. Have an agenda with clear outcomes.

The outcomes need to feel relevant and meaningful to participants. One of the biggest complaints that teachers have about attending meetings is that they don’t feel purposeful. Make sure that whatever you’re doing to discuss, do, plan, or share is something that will leave participants saying, “That was a really good use of my time.”

It might be hard to determine what outcomes will feel relevant to all on short notice. At the end of this meeting, you might ask participants what they might suggest for next time--in terms of outcomes. Remember, discussions aren’t outcomes and long discussions can leave some feeling drained and wondering “What was the point of that?” So if there’s a need for a discussion, see if you can identify (or have them identify) the purpose it will serve. For example, a discussion about what courses to offer might be phrased as an outcome like: “We will identify the four new courses our department will offer next year.”

I like to use an agenda with four columns: The first is “Time,” the second is “What,” (the topic, activity, or task) the third is “Why” which provides the reasoning behind this agenda item, and the fourth is “How” which describes the structures through which we’ll engage in the activity. I use this agenda format for every meeting I lead or facilitate.

2. Ensure that all voices are heard.

Everyone wants to feel that they are listened to. There might be a team that has bigger talkers than others, so this doesn’t mean that everyone needs to have exactly equal airtime. But it does mean that everyone is heard. You can do this by structuring the meeting to have different ways of engagement. For example, you might have one part where people speak to a partner about something. Another section might be an unstructured whole group discussion. A different agenda item might invite trios to talk, and then one person to share out with the whole group. If one person is dominating the airtime, that’s a problem. You can try saying something direct to that person like, “Thank you for your contributions. I’d like to make sure that everyone has a chance to share thoughts and feelings so if you could hold off on making any more contributions that would be good.”

3. Honor your commitments.
Keep track of time and stick to it. Start and end on time. Do what you say you will do. This builds trust and sets a tone for your leadership.

4. Ask for written feedback at the end of the meeting.

Explain that the purpose of giving you this feedback is so that you can build your skill as a facilitator and better support this team. Ask a few questions that will allow you to understand what people got from the meeting, (what they learned or how they felt that the meeting will make them more skilled, effective, or satisfied) ask something like, “What worked for you in today’s meeting?” as well as, “What didn’t work for you?” And finally, ask something broad and general like, “Is there anything else you want me to know about your experience in our meeting today?”

5. Be authentic.
People will take big and immediate cues from how you show up as a facilitator--from your energy, disposition, attitude, and verbal and non-verbal communication. People will immediately pick up on your feelings of excitement or confidence, or insecurity and uncertainty. You can show up as a learner in this space, as someone eager to develop your facilitation skills, but balance that with a level of confidence about yourself as a leader. People want and need to sense that too.

There’s so much more to say about this topic (it’s what I’m writing my next book on) and there’s much more to learn. But I hope these help for tomorrow! I think this must constitute “Just in time PD.”

Readers, other tips?

The opinions expressed in The Art of Coaching Teachers are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.