8 Tips for Meeting Facilitators

Meeting facilitator
Meeting facilitators should strive to run efficient meetings

Meetings: the ultimate necessary evil. I’ve met few people who haven’t complained about another meeting; or dreading the idea of another Monday morning status meeting, stealing an hour of their life every week.
There are certainly too many meetings in this world. Even if we could reduce the number of meetings to the necessary few, I think people would still hate meetings.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it is largely a facilitation issue. So I’ve come up with 8 tips to help you facilitate meetings that people will be less likely to dread attending.

1) Only invite the necessary people. We’ve probably all been in the 20-person meeting where everyone wants to get his or her two cents in. The meeting doesn’t get out of hand because it starts out of hand and never comes back.
Invite the people that can provide input or decision making. There may be others who need to be involved for informational purposes. Most people who need to be informed can be provided meeting minutes after the fact.
2) Be on time. Nothing starts a meeting off on the wrong foot like waiting for the meeting organizer to show up. Then, once he shows up, he has to organize his notes, connect his laptop to the projector, and provide any hand-outs. When the meeting starts out behind like that, it rarely catches up.
3) Design the meeting. Have an agenda that provides the purpose of the meeting at the top and lists each discussion item that needs to be discussed. Send it out at least a day in advance.
This provides the attendees with enough information to prepare for the meeting. Even if they don’t read it ahead of time, once they get to the meeting, they know why they are there and what to expect.
4) Keep people on task. Follow the agenda. If people bring up topics that are not on the agenda, pull them back on task. This is your meeting. Let them create an agenda and schedule their own meeting.
5) Have a parking lot. When people do go off the agenda, they may bring up something that is important enough that you don’t want to forget about it. One effective way to deal with that is to use the white board or an easel pad to park the discussion item. If there is time at the end of the meeting, you can discuss it then. Otherwise, another meeting may be scheduled. The agenda is the priority. Keep it that way.
6) Move the meeting along. Meetings often drag on because the facilitator allows discussion to get too detailed. If an issue comes up that requires detailed analysis, does it need to involve everyone in the room? If it requires two or three attendees to meet separately, tell them to take that issue offline and continue on with the meeting.
If people break into small talk, reign them back in and go to the next agenda item. Every minute you waste is multiplied by the number of meeting attendees.

For further reading check out How to Facilitate Project Communication

7) End the meeting when you are done. Some meeting facilitators schedule a one-hour meeting and keep the attendees for the full hour. This type of facilitator rarely has an agenda, but if they do, and all of the discussion items on the agenda have been executed, they figure out a way to fill the rest of the hour.
Time is precious. When you’ve discussed all of the agenda items and the meeting’s objective has been met, adjourn the meeting. The meeting attendees will thank you for the extra time.
8) Provide meeting notes. Within one business day of the meeting, type up and distribute meeting minutes to every attendee and anybody else that may be interested in the meeting’s outcome.
The best way to distribute is to load it in a central repository that everyone has access to and provide a link to everyone.
People may always hate meetings, but if you run your meetings efficiently, respecting the time of your attendees, the people that attend your meetings may hate yours a little less than others.

Next week: 7 tips for meeting attendees.

If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.