How to facilitate a meeting in 11 steps: the complete guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 24 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Meetings offer people with a common interest the opportunity to convene, share ideas, convey information and make plans. A meeting usually consists of the participants, topics to discuss, materials or resources to back up statistics, a meeting place and a facilitator. Facilitators ensure that a meeting goes according to plan, the participants receive their invites and know their roles for the meeting to achieve its goal. In this article, we define what a facilitator is, provide tips for facilitating a meeting and explain how to facilitate a meeting online or offline.

What is a meeting facilitator?

A facilitator anchors a meeting, engages the participants and makes sure that the processes follow the plan. Facilitators are junior or senior members of an organisation or group and can also be the organisers. Before a meeting starts, the moderator plans the upcoming event ahead of time while the participants receive an update.

To facilitate effectively, the moderator requires decent communication skills. Speaking confidently, listening attentively and permitting others to speak are essential facilitation skills. They can also benefit from organisational skills to ensure that they follow the pre-planned order of events. Meetings can sometimes be long and may cause the participants to lose focus. Time management skills are essential to make a meeting engaging for its participants. Facilitators are gaining more recognition as more people consider a career in meeting moderation.

Related: How to have an effective staff meeting (with tips)

How to facilitate a meeting

Follow these steps to learn how to facilitate a meeting online or offline:

1. Identify the meeting's outline

Before inviting people to a meeting, establishing the meeting agenda first serves as the basis for successful meeting facilitation. Identify the subjects you want to discuss beforehand. While you spend time deliberating on the issues to discuss, you can ask colleagues for suggestions. Knowing what to address saves a facilitator's time, makes them more equipped to hold a meeting and establishes the mood.

2. Inform management of the meeting

After identifying the agenda, inform superiors of your plans. It's one of the effective meeting facilitation techniques that afford the facilitator management support. For instance, the board may postpone an event scheduled for the day to permit the meeting. Likewise, management and heads of departments may allow attendees to take time off their duties to attend the meeting. The company may also contribute financially if the facilitator convinces them.

Related: How to write a meeting agenda (with tips and sample)

3. Send invites to attendees

Upon getting permission from management to have a meeting, you can start making a list of attendees. The ideal people to invite are those who the agenda directly affects. For instance, if the theme pertains to updating the IT infrastructure of a company, the ideal primary attendees are IT professionals. After identifying the attendees, send an invitation to them via email and remind them in person when you meet.

A proper meeting invitation includes the meeting date, time, venue and goals. Ensure to add the meeting agenda to give the attendees a clue of what to expect. It can help them prepare questions, make comments and raise concerns where necessary.

Related: How to take and distribute meeting minutes

4. Secure and arrange the venue

Facilitators are responsible for organising a meeting and providing a suitable location. Looking for ideal places to host the event is one of the basic techniques to facilitate a meeting. Consider the purpose of the gathering, the reputation of the company and the calibre of attendees when choosing a venue. If you're holding an online meeting, you need some of the best video conference software. Confirm if your company's internal messaging system has video conference features before considering other options. To use external video conference platforms, search online for the best and send links to the attendees.

5. Define the meeting's goal

Having a purpose for a meeting is as important as setting goals. Setting goals for a convention can help facilitators oversee the proceedings better. To illustrate, focusing on the goal helps a facilitator ask questions or raise observations to make participants brainstorm ideas. While planning the meeting, make a list of feats you want to achieve. Check the goals list as the convention progresses and at the end.

6. Know the attendees

The key to addressing a crowd is to communicate in ways they can understand. Communicating effectively also involves using familiar language or jargon, making references to familiar events and showing empathy. To excel in these areas, knowing your audience is crucial. You can do some findings on the attendees and take note of their qualifications, background, position, demography and gender. Ensure to communicate with words and illustrations that your attendees can relate to easily. Also, be sure that the meeting's goals pertain to them.

7. Engage the attendees from the start

The best way to foster an interactive atmosphere is to involve the participants once the meeting starts. Commence the meeting by encouraging every participant to speak briefly on something unique about their day, their expectations for the meeting or what they can remember about the previous meetings. Encouraging light conversations is one of the effective facilitation techniques to help both timid and outgoing attendees get comfortable. Also, make the meeting interactive regardless of how serious the theme may be. People pay more attention and are more likely to contribute to interactive meetings.

Related: 20 fun team meeting ideas to boost engagement and productivity

8. Be enthusiastic

A facilitator's demeanour can impact the way the attendees perceive the meeting. If the facilitator is lethargic or the conference is too long, it may seem boring to attendees. Move about if you're handling a meeting in a spacious room. Use your hands occasionally and make gestures that people can understand. If you're holding a virtual meeting, change your sitting position frequently. Also, working on the tone of your voice is part of the facilitation practices that can yield positive results. Speak up, show enthusiasm and use common phrases or jargon that the participants can understand.

9. Observe the response and concentration levels of the participants

The key to encouraging participation from the attendees is observing their reactions. Pay attention to their body language during the meeting to know if they understand, are in favour of or have any interest in the topics you're discussing. If you observe a dip in concentration, you can add a bit of humour, change the subject or ask questions.

10. Take notes and include everyone

As the participants offer ideas, write them down. Use a notepad and pen when taking notes instead of your electronic device. Ensure to accommodate all contributions, including the least brilliant ones. Try to include everyone in the brainstorming or suggestions process also. Let the participants know that you acknowledge every contribution but cannot implement all ideas.

11. Close by appreciating the participants

The facilitator reserves the right to end a meeting. You may stop the conference once it achieves its goal or if the time elapses. When closing the convention, thank everyone by name for participating. Follow up the meeting by sending a thank you email to each participant. You can remind them of the points you discussed in the facilitated meeting.

Related: How to write a meeting request email (with examples)

Tips for facilitating a meeting

Achieving the goals of facilitating a meeting depends on how well you engage the meeting attendees. Besides engaging participants, proper planning and problem-solving skills are essential for holding a meeting. Follow these tips to facilitate meetings more effectively:

Prepare issues to discuss beforehand

Failing to plan or prepare for a meeting can be a problem. An indication of failing to plan is arriving late, not having an arranged venue or a meeting agenda. While you may be confident of being ready on the meeting date, unforeseen circumstances on the day may alter the progression of the meeting. Ensure to book the meeting venue and have topics to discuss before sending invites to the potential attendees.

Focus on the attendees

The key to facilitating a meeting is to focus on the attendees. Make the needs, views and matters affecting employees the priority. It makes it easier for attendees to participate in the meeting and make meaningful contributions. If the theme or points to discuss have little to do with the employees, add at least one more topic concerning employees to the outline. You may inform the attendees beforehand that matters directly affecting them are part of the topics for discussion. It can make them eager to attend and participate in the meeting.

Be ready to improvise

The outcome of even the best-planned meetings can be hard to predict before they begin. While some go according to plan, others may not. A facilitator requires problem-solving skills and the ability to think fast. For instance, when a facilitator observes that the attendees are not participating, they can change the order of events. The ability to improvise when necessary can make the facilitator and attendees achieve the goals of the meeting.


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