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How to Facilitate a Meeting
What is a Facilitator?
The facilitator is the person in charge of the meeting. They
move the meeting along.
The Facilitator is Responsible for:
- Getting agreement on agenda and processes before and
during the meeting
- Conducting the meeting - makes sure the group keeps to
ground rules, time limits, etc.
- Guiding discussion
- Staying neutral, asking questions and suggesting ways to
approach parts of the agenda
- Making sure the group comes to decisions and work is
divided among members
- Keeping the group on track when they head off onto
- Watching the vibe of the meeting and helping to keep
- Making sure everyone participates and no one dominates
- Creating a safe and positive environment (protects
people from personal attack)
- Intervening if problems come up, dealing with concerns
- Creating a comfortable environment - using language that
makes everyone comfortable
Strategies for Good Facilitation:
- Ask person who put specific item on agenda to give a
brief introduction on important background information and
what they want done
- Give 5 minute warnings when moving on to another agenda
item. Appoint a separate timekeeper if necessary.
- Put off off-subject topics - Create a list (a "parking
lot") for items to be discussed at another time
- Paraphrase (repeat back in your own words) to check for
the sense of the discussion
- Help people avoid repeating themselves by summarizing
discussion and asking only for comments in areas that
haven't been mentioned
- Make suggestions for how to move forward - after
discussion has gone on for a while, try to summarize, look
for agreement or sticking points, and come to decision
- Ask questions
- Be positive and encourage full participation - make sure
everyone gets to speak, try to notice when someone is
- Focus on issues, not personalities
- Ask someone else to facilitate if you want to actively
participate in the discussion
- Check briefly for agreement before moving on - make sure
everyone understands decisions
Techniques for making decisions in meetings:
- Prioritizing (ranking items)
- Pro's and Con's
- Straw voting (informal poll to see where people are)
- Going around to everyone to check for the sense of the
group This resource sheet was developed with help from
CompassPoint Non-Profit Services
Suggested Wording for Facilitating a Meeting
from the North American Students of Cooperation Cooperative
Education and Training Institute
- Make sure each agenda item is introduced by the person
responsible for it. This way everyone understands why the
item is being discussed. The introduction should include:
what information everyone needs to know and what needs to be
decided, and possibly pro's and con's.
Jane, could you please give us a
little background on this issue and tell us what action you
- Make sure everyone has a chance to speak.
I've noticed a few people have been
saying a lot on this issue; before hearing any more from
them, is there anyone who hasn't spoken yet who has
something to add?
- Encourage everyone to say what's on their mind. Try to
notice when people are holding back; that could make it hard
for them to come to a decision later.
I sense some hesitancy from folks
to speak openly on this issue; it's important we hear all
points of view, so I encourage everyone to be honest about
- Make sure people speak only on the matter at hand. If
other issues come up, keep track of them on a "parallel
agenda" and let people know that the group will return to
this agenda before the end of the meeting.
Joe, you're raising some good
points and I've noted them here; we'll come back to them
before the end of the meeting, but let's focus more directly
on the issue at hand.
- Encourage people to avoid repeating themselves and
others by summarizing discussion periodically.
So far, I've heard the following
objections raised... The arguments in favor of the proposal
seem to be... I've heard people propose the following
- Keep the meeting moving along. Remind people of time and
appoint a timekeeper if necessary. If designated time runs
out, ask the group to agree to spend more time on the issue,
postpone it until later in the meeting, or put the
discussion off until another meeting.
We're about to run out of the
designated time on this issue. Is there agreement to spend
another ten minutes to get a few more ideas on the table and
make a decision now, or should we postpone a final decision
until our next meeting?
- Encourage the group to take a break to restore energy or
I'm seeing a few people "resting
their eyes." Would anybody object to a five minute break to
get up and stretch and get some fresh air?
- After a topic has been discussed for a while, start
trying to move the group toward agreement by summarizing
discussion points, looking for common points of agreement,
identifying sources of conflict, etc.
I'm hearing most people agree
with...but there seems to be a few points of view
on...Perhaps we could focus on how to agree on these last
- Know when the group has reached a decision. Also know
when a group cannot reach a decision; suggest postponing a
decision when. . .a) the group needs critical information b)
the group needs to hear from others c) the group is not
I'd like to propose we postpone
this discussion because...
- Make sure everyone understands the decision.
Could we briefly summarize the
proposal that's being decided right now?
- If you want to participate actively in the discussion,
ask someone else to take over facilitating the meeting. If
you have a quick personal comment, signal to the group that
this comment comes from you personally.
I'm recognizing myself as speaker.
(Stand up or take some other physical action to
distinguish you are not speaking as facilitator.)
Courtesy of the
California GSA Network