The 6 step meeting facilitation guide:
1. How to Start a Meeting
When your meeting begins, be aware that the participants might have busy schedules. Don't assume that they can remember the exact agenda, as their main attention for the last couple of days might have been on different projects.
To start off, be sure to go through the agenda and the purpose of the meeting.
Answer the question: Why are we here?
We can narrow the first stage of the meeting down to three steps: inform, excite, empower.
1. Inform the meeting participants
This is the part where you tell your participants about the purpose of the meeting.
Make it clear to everyone what is on the agenda, and who has been assigned items. If you are well aware of how to prepare for a meeting, then this should be standard procedure.
Are there several items that you need to discuss in the meeting? First, briefly go through all of them and remember to say how much time is allocated to each item. Keep it concise and to the point.
Can you explain each item in a couple of sentences? Do that. Don't overcomplicate it.
Throughout the meeting, you want the participants to remember exactly what the purpose is. So stick to the message. Of course, sometimes, when matters are more complex, you need more room for explanation. But the rule still applies - keep the purpose to-the-point and as concise as possible.
We interviewed Jan Engberg, knowledge communication professor at Aarhus University and discussed the balance between complexity and accessibility of expert communication:
"Keeping it short is good, but only if the recipients get the intended message. (...) If the communication lacks, or has insufficient information and complexity, there's a problem. (...) Increasing accessibility is always beneficial, but complexity depends on the situation. People in management can probably handle more than 10 words per sentence.
How can a meeting facilitator find that balance between accessibility and complexity?
"He/she has to be attentive to what other people don't know. Ask yourself: What parts of what I know are most important to the receiver in this situation? Is it inherent that they know, for example, why something is dangerous? Or is it simply enough that they know it is.
As the meeting facilitator, it's up to you to find the balance.
So ask yourself: How much detail do the participants need in order to understand the message?
Either way, if you give them too much or too little information, chances are they will misunderstand the message, so try to be attentive to what they don't know.
2. Excite the meeting participants
"What's in it for me?"
Right after you explain the purpose of the meeting to the participants, remind them of the benefits their decision(s) will have - not just on the company - but on themselves.
You don't have to speak loudly or make big gestures to excite your participants, just make it apparent that you care about them being in this meeting. A way to do this is simply to implement the pronouns "you" and "your" in the presentation. Simple right?
Use gamification to excite your meeting participants
No, it's not a waste of time - being creative and playing games trigger our motivation and involvement with what's in front of us. For example, you can do a short quiz to see how much your participants remember from the last meeting - it's basically just another way of recapping the last meeting - and it doesn't have to take long.
3. Empower the meeting participants
This final part of starting the meeting is when you delegate responsibilities and assign authority to each participant. When they feel empowered, they're more likely to get engaged and speak up.
As the meeting facilitator, it is your job to make the meeting participants feel empowered. A way to do this is by assigning tasks to them individually, reminding them that their decision matters, maybe give them compliments for previous work - basically, anything to make them feel valued and important to the company.
Fun, creative ways to start a meeting
Looking for quick ideas? Try our meeting kick-starter chart - It's a simple, fun and super effective way to kick-start a meeting.
2. How to Engage Your Meeting Participants
According Roger Schwarz, an organizational psychologist, in a Harvard study, you, as the meeting facilitator, want "participants to see the team meeting as a puzzle — their role is to get the pieces out on the table and figure out how they fit together".
There are different ways to make your meeting participants feel included. If you're looking for inspiration, use our meeting kick-starter chart as part of your meeting facilitation kit! It's a great way to kick-start your meeting and including the participants at the same time. 👍
Then, maybe they can figure out which pieces belong where and, hopefully, solve the puzzle.
Different participants, different engagement methods
Everyone is different. As the meeting facilitator, you have to be able to read people and be attentive to their needs.
Some people are easy to get engaged. If they are extroverts and outgoing, they will speak up when they have something to say. However, introverts need some help - which is where you come in.
Not long ago, we interviewed Ib Ravn, an Associate Professor at Aarhus University, who has done research in meetings. Back then, he explained to us the importance of including and engaging the meeting participants for better results.
How can you effectively engage introverted participants?
Introvert people, on the other hand, are harder to get engaged. Especially, if they are in the same meeting as a lot of extroverts. Introverts tend to think for themselves before speaking up, whereas extroverts use speaking to process their thoughts
A way to engage introvert people is to implement a couple of minutes of silent reflection after each item on the agenda. That way, the introverts in your meeting will be more likely to speak up.
3. How to Use Body Language
Why is body language important? Well, although we might not notice it ourselves, it is very easy for others to pick up the signals we are sending with our bodies.
The 3 C's: Be calm, confident and comfortable
Abiding by the three C's is extremely important for the facilitation of your meetings. Why? Because it shows when you are not, and it distracts the participants, causing them to think about what your body language is signalling instead of what you are saying.
Many of us have little annoying things that we do when we overthink how we look and appear in the meeting room.
I, for example, used to put my hands on my face, when I got nervous speaking in front of someone - sometimes I even covered my mouth! Can you imagine listening to someone, who is covering their mouth? That's got to be so distracting!
Whatever it is that you do, you might think people don't notice it - but they do - so try not to.
When you're facilitating a meeting, eliminating all these visible insecurities will make you look more authoritative, like someone who embodies confidence and calmness. So in this case, it really is all about "fake it till you make it".
Before your next meeting, try to think about "the annoying little things" that you do when you get insecure, and replace them with habits that signal confidence - such as the power pose.
How to be confident (or fake it)
There are simple things that you can do to improve your body language. Here are two body language tools to take into the meeting room - the power pose and showing your hands:
1. The power pose
Research shows that putting your hands on your hips and spreading your legs will not only make you look more confident - you will feel it too!
2. Make sure everyone can see your hands
Whether your hands are still or you are waving them around to convey your message, keeping them out in the open is important to the receiver. Because if you're not, it looks like you are hiding something, even if you aren't.
The only thing you should try and hide, is lack of confidence, the kind that most of us feel at times when we have to take the lead on something we're not 100% qualified for. So, better keep those hands visible!
When you walk into the meeting room, and you find your chair (if it's a sitting meeting), take your time to get comfortable. Being in a rush just isn't worth it. Adjust the chair to fit your height, keep your back straight and relax your shoulders.
It sounds elementary, but being comfortable will allow you to focus on the matters at hand, and bodily discomforts will not be a distraction. And again, even if it's not a big deal to you that you can't sit still, or stop tapping your foot etc., your participants are going to notice it.
4. How to Keep Meeting Participants Engaged
As the meeting progresses, you might sense that the participants' energy level, which was so high at the start of the meeting, is declining.
It's perfectly normal... Maybe you've given a presentation, which they thought was very interesting the first 10 minutes, but suddenly, you've lost their attention. But now, it's time to get it back.
How to re-engage the meeting participants?
At Capturi, we like fun. But it's not all fun and games, it's only fun as long as it's productive in some way.
We like fun because it engages everyone in the meeting room and increases productivity. So, if you are up for it, try one (or more) of these games to get the participants re-engaged:
- Quiz up your meeting. You can use a quiz tool like Kahoot to ask some questions related to the agenda. On Kahoot, everyone can be anonymous, so this is a great engagement tool for introvert participants. Remember, it doesn't have to take long, you just need to spark the participants' energy level.
- Roleplay. Want to bring some humor into your meetings? Try to make everyone speak with a French accent - or assign different accents to each participant. We've tried this before, and it's actually hilarious!
It's up to you how you want to re-engage the people at your meeting. It doesn't have to be as comprehensive, as roleplaying with French accents... Just try to break the habitual thinking.
But don't forget to get back on track. Remember, these exercises are not just for fun - they work as tools for getting back the engagement and focus of the participants.
Another way to break the meeting habits is to facilitate for a walking meeting.
5. How to Keep a Meeting on track
There is nothing more aggravating than an endless meeting that just goes on and on... As the meeting facilitator, it is your job to ensure that the meeting stays on track.
It can be a challenge. Especially, if certain individuals ramble on incessantly or a participant goes on multiple tangents, then its your job as the facilitator to interfere. Pretty straight forward right?
Well... no. What if the rambler actually has a good idea? Should you cut that person off and kill the creativity?
Of course not. Maybe you can sense what the right call is to make based on what you know of the participants, their personality, needs, wants, habits etc.
Establish some meeting ground rules
To make sure the meeting stays on track, it can be a good idea to establish some ground rules for general behaviour in the meeting room. Ideally, these rules should be agreed upon as early as possible in your team - but if you haven't already, this is something you should consider before your next meeting, or when you have time.
Ground rules consist of questions, you, as a group, need to answer, such as: "What will we do if someone is late?" "How will team members be held accountable?" "How will we deal with interruptions like phone calls?" etc.
How to avoid endless meetings
Since you have taken the time to properly introduce the participants to the agenda and the purpose of the meeting, a long with the fact that now they should be feeling included and empowered, they not only know the destination of the meeting - they feel responsible and want to help the team get there.
That's right, the time you spent in step 1 was invested in the meeting - and now you reap what you have sowed.
6. How to Close a Meeting
So... A lot of great ideas have circulated the meeting room and it's time to round them up. Take a look at the agenda; have your team completed the items on the it?
Some items will be a piece of cake to get through. Others, well... after discussing them for 30 minutes, you still won't have a clear direction. In that case, you need to find out why you and your team can't make the decision.
Make a list of the things you need to figure out, maybe add some new participants with valuable insights on these matters, and then, assign who is responsible for the next steps.
In general, before everyone leaves, clarify the next steps. Have you assigned new tasks to the participants? Do they understand the tasks? If not, how will you make them understand?
As we went over in step 1 with Jan Engberg, try and remember to be attentive to what the participants know, and what they don't.
One last thing
Make sure to acknowledge the participants who contributed with great insights throughout the meeting when you give your final remarks. It's what great leaders do. 👍
Smarter meetings? Yes please!
If you liked this article from Capturi, you’re probably on a mission to having more effective meetings – just like us! You might want to try our platform. It’s a simple tool that manages all your meetings and tasks in ONE place. Collaborate, assign tasks, add due dates and keep track of your team’s progress.