Be a Better Meeting Facilitator


By: Jeff Lugerner

We all spend more time in meetings than we would prefer to and for most of us they are energy depleting and at best moderately productive. Here are 3 simple suggestions that might improve the quality of the meetings you facilitate.

1. Give Each Agenda Item an Objective

Essentially what are we trying to accomplish with each agenda item? The objective for each agenda item can be provided by the meeting owner or the person who asked to have a particular item on the agenda. To get a bit granular for the moment we would even propose that the Objective for each agenda item be printed right next to it. This gives people a visual reminder of what they need to focus on and what they’re here to get done.

There are generally 4-5 Objectives for typical agenda items in a business meeting:

  1. make decisions
  2. share information
  3. advance the thinking on a specific issue
  4. create buy-in
  5. obtain input

When meeting facilitators have implemented this technique we have observed a much more focused discussion with a clearer sense of purpose.

2. Bypass the Two-Person Meeting

The most prominent thing we see in meetings today is two people going one on one with each other while others sit outside of this process and observe. Sometimes it is a healthy discussion, in most cases it a debate driven by a healthy dose of egos. More often than not it includes the meeting facilitator and someone else. Getting drawn into this kind of extended exchange has happened to all of us at one time or another.

Here are some ideas on how to shift things in the moment:

  1. remind yourself that your job is not to win a debate
  2. “go to the balcony” – a mental model that let’s you become an observer of your own behavior  for a moment and helps you to self-correct
  3. leverage the brain power in the room – call on others to weigh in with their perspective
  4. create a mental metric – once you’ve heard yourself say the same thing twice let that be a cue to step out of this non-productive exchange

Navigating meetings as the meeting owner can be treacherous at times. Keep in mind that by their very nature meetings are imperfect and you too will sometimes be imperfect.

3. Make Asks of People

We hear less and less ASKS being made of people in meetings. Good asks drive results, bring greater clarity, commitment, engagement and infuse more vitality into meetings.

Here are some ASKS that can bring more of the elements mentioned above:

  1. ask for someone to weigh in
  2. ask for a different perspective
  3. ask for someone to play devils advocate
  4. ask for someone to provide guidance
  5. ask for a commitment
  6. ask for someone to follow up
  7. ask for buy-in

The list of Asks is endless and we hope we’ve sparked your thought process here.

Meetings are hard. We “live” in meetings. These are some ideas we hope you find helpful. Please share your ideas with the rest of us.

Jeff and Karen


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