How to facilitate a successful meeting – a checklist

The Meeting Facilitators Checklist

  • Objectivity – It is critical to remain objective at all times. Do not be tempted to respond to or defend anything said. The focus should be on listening, acknowledging, probing for understanding and root cause, and tracking.
  • Confidentiality – Assure participants that their comments will be reported anonymously.
  • Candor – Emphasize the need for an open and honest discussion. The goal is to uncover real concerns and recommend appropriate solutions.
  • Participation – Everyone needs to be actively involved. A fast and steady pace, the use of brainstorming, and encouraging participants to contribute will all serve this purpose.
  • Agenda – Move quickly through the discussion of implementation risks, but ask participants to raise issues and questions as needed. Focus the discussion on specific recommendations that address the implementation risks.
  • Legitimacy – This session is designed to identify problems and develop potential solutions. The focus should be on idea creation, not criticism.
  • Have Fun! – This is discussion a between and among participants, not just between them and the facilitator. Follow the agenda but keep the discussion informal.

Facilitator Do’s and Don’ts –

  • Do express the objectives of the session.
  • Do explain your role as facilitator.
  • Do point out the time available.
  • Do know something about the group before starting.
  • Do encourage participation.
  • Do use open-ended questions.
  • Do thank individuals for their input.
  • Do use flip-charts to record inputs, when possible.
  • Do ask for clarification.
  • Do gain some consensus after all ideas are offered.
  • Do gain closure – may mean asking group to prioritize.
  • Don’t evaluate input as good or bad.
  • Don’t stop someone in the middle of their thought.
  • Don’t argue or defend a point.
  • Don’t try to respond during the brainstorming section – save it for Q&A.

Ways to increase group participation –

  • Effective use of open-ended questions.
  • Allow enough time for participants to think and respond.
  • Acknowledge all responses.
  • Let a participant finish speaking before moving on.
  • Face the group and move about freely.
  • Keep the discussion focused on the agenda.
  • Make eye contact frequently, especially with those who seem disinterested, or those taking part in side conversations.
  • Ask for clarification when a response is unclear. Examples: “Tell me more…” ” Can you rephrase that?”
  • Keep on schedule.

Useful tips to keep the discussion moving:

  • Thank you.
  • Tell me more about what you said (or what you mean).
  • Repeat that in a few words so I can capture your thought on the flip-chart.
  • How do others of you feel about that?
  • Let me see if I can repeat that back to you.
  • Feel free to add as we go.

Special problems:

  • Someone dominates – Look into eyes of other participants, say “That’s interesting, how do others feel about that?”
  • Loss of control/off-subject – Stop the discussion, and say “It appears we may be getting off subject. Let me ask you about this….” and return to the issues on the agenda.
  • Non-participants – Make eye contact. Encourage their participation, by saying, “We may not have given you an opportunity to say what’s on your mind…we’d appreciate your ideas too.
  • Side conversations – Make eye contact, direct questions to them, or ask them politely to join the group so everyone will have the benefit of hearing all comments.
  • Out of time – Say “We seem to be running out of time and we want to honor our time commitment. There have been lots of great questions and ideas coming out.” Then, either provide the phone numbers of presenter/facilitator and suggest people call with their thoughts, OR suggest they write down a few thoughts and leave them with you, OR offer a summary point or two and say that’s all the time we have today.
  • Cold climate – Suggest an introductory activity. For example, if time permits, ask each person to introduce themselves and share one thing about themselves that another person couldn’t.