Have you ever left a meeting worried that it was not really as productive as you had hoped?
Perhaps some of the quieter people had insightful things to say, but they never said them?
Maybe decisions seemed to be unanimous, but you were not sure if everyone or only the most vocal people agreed.
Did everyone come away with the same understanding?
Try these tips for facilitating a meeting that offers a comfortable and accessible ‘speaking space’ for everyone:
- Circulate an agenda in advance or at the start of the meeting.
- Get everyone speaking right at the start of the meeting with an unusual activity. Ask people to reveal something intriguing about themselves (e.g. their first pet’s name) or get them to talk to their ‘neighbour’ and then tell the group what they learnt about that person.
- If you are presenting an idea or concept, demonstrate it rather than telling people about it (you will need to prepare).
- Delegate authority to the group so that they don’t look to you for answers – let the information come from them.
- Ask permission from the group before you do something, e.g. ‘How does that sound? Discussing topic A now, and waiting until after lunch to discuss topic B?’
- Be fresh and entertaining (‘entertainers’ value the audience’s attention, whereas in many cases ‘presenters’ seem not to care).
- Repeat (paraphrase) what each person says so that they feel heard and the group can hear and understand their point.
- Create a calm space for interaction by acting calm yourself – this can be the biggest challenge!
- If you are not a quiet person, start acting as if you were. That will calm the excited members of the audience but still leave them ‘airtime’ to participate, and it will welcome the quieter ones to the floor. Everyone will feel as though they have been listened to.
- Use pauses to get people thinking. Quiet pauses can allow quiet people to ‘get a word in’ if some people are dominating the conversation.Write legibly on the whiteboard. If you have sloppy handwriting, use a large whiteboard and large lettering to improve readability, or ask a participant to write on the board for you.
- Get people’s ‘buy-in’ to the meeting by involving them in subsequent activities such as collecting information or organising follow-up activities.