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Tips to help you facilitate your next meeting

October 24, 2022  |  Rachel Kats

Tips to help you facilitate your next meeting For some, leading and facilitating meetings comes naturally. For others, it’s akin to pulling teeth. Whether you are part of the former or latter, meetings, either with staff or clients, have become an integral part of the job in many sectors. Understanding the mechanisms of effective meeting management is important to moving the conversation and work forward.
 
For that reason, I recently took a course on how to effectively facilitate meetings through the University of Wisconsin, led by Jeffrey Russell, co-owner of Russell Consulting, Inc. It turns out the key to effective meetings lies in the often-overlooked fundamentals. With that in mind, here are four helpful takeaways. 

1. Understand why you’re meeting and set clear goals and outcomes

A March 2022 article published by the Harvard Business Review states that: “New research shows that 70% of meetings keep employees from doing productive work. While there was a 20% decrease in the average length of meetings during the pandemic, the number of meetings attended by a worker on average rose by 13.5%.”  
 
Research such as this highlights that the first step of a meeting leader and facilitator is to determine if the meeting is really needed, who should be involved and how long should it run. To prevent wasting attendees’ time and to gain buy in, it is important to be clear about why you are meeting, what you intend to gain from it and why you feel that particular person is instrumental in making it happen.  

2. Create an agenda

It might sound dramatic, but one of two “absolute rules” shared during the seminar was, “Never attend a meeting that doesn’t have an agenda.” Creating a comprehensive agenda will keep attendees on track and working toward achieving the stated outcomes for that meeting or topic.
 
An effective agenda should outline each topic, indicate who will lead the discussion of it, and possibly include an estimated start and end time for each topic. Be sure to distribute the agenda before the meeting so others have time to prepare.

3. Guide the discussion and encourage participation

Now it’s meeting time.
 
In opening the meeting, it’s good practice to state why you’re meeting, your goal and explain any ground rules; if the meeting is virtual, determine if cameras are required, how attendees should speak up, if there is a Google document or other tools for notes and, for that matter, determine who will take notes.
 
As a facilitator, you should ensure a good flow of information through attendee participation. That may start with open questions, and should you find the conversation being dominated by one or two people, try directing questions to a specific person who you know is knowledgeable on the topic but may be hesitant to speak up.
 
Finally, before moving onto a new topic, ensure you’ve achieved a level of shared understanding by paraphrasing the conversation and outcome.

4. Outline action items 

In the last few minutes of the meeting, summarize what the group has decided or what has been accomplished. Review action items and assign tasks, make note of any topics that will need to be discussed at a later date and, if needed, discuss the agenda for the next meeting.
 
While it may seem obvious that a meeting should have a clear purpose, agenda, input from all attendees and action items, how many times have you participated in a meeting that lacked one or more of these elements and what was the end result? When a meeting is effectively facilitated and all attendees are included in the conversation, it’s more likely to result in a commitment to the decisions that are made, create shared understanding and ensure transparency.
 

Topics: Leadership, Management, Personal Development

Rachel Kats

Rachel Kats is the MNCPA communications coordinator, working to develop and produce publications, activities and programs that promote the CPA profession. Rachel keeps busy outside of the MNCPA by spending time with her husband and pets. She enjoys traveling, drawing, long walks, watching Jeopardy, gardening and cooking. You may reach her at 952-885-5533 or rkats@mncpa.org.

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