Whether your team anticipates meetings with delight or despise largely comes down to the meeting facilitator. In other words – an efficient meeting requires an efficient meeting facilitator.
And we’ve got your back. In this article, you’ll find our top tips for how to facilitate a meeting in a way that makes everyone leave ready to enthusiastically execute their tasks. Let’s see how!
A meeting facilitator is ideally different from the meeting leader or note-taker. The meeting leader is in charge of the meeting: they decide to host it, set the desired outcome, schedule it, start it, and convey the goals.
The note-taker is in charge of the meeting minutes. To greatly facilitate their task, Airgram comes with live transcription and exportation of the meeting minutes to common note-taking software like MS Word, Notion, and Google Docs.
The meeting facilitator is like an orchestra conductor: they are responsible for managing the flow during your time together. A good meeting facilitator ensures everyone feels heard, brings people back on topic, and entices engaged discussion by asking the right questions.
The idea of having a meeting facilitator separate from the meeting leader is that when a leader facilitates, they also tend to dominate the session. A facilitator has a more neutral role regarding the topic – they don’t even need to be experts or well-versed in what’s discussed.
More important is that the meeting facilitation is done by someone who is socially competent. This person needs to be comfortable managing the dynamics of humans with opposing opinions. So, soft skills weigh heavier than hard skills for a great meeting facilitator!
A great meeting facilitator:
Cares about the participants.
Ensures everyone feels recognized and can talk without interruption.
Steers the dynamics so that quiet people are encouraged to talk and talkative people to leave space for others – without silencing anyone or obliging them to share.
Is attuned to the energy in the room – can park a discussion that only causes frustration, make space for a break, and finish the meeting on time.
Connects the dots – identifies and lifts common themes, reconnects what someone shares to what has been said earlier, and pauses at critical remarks to dive deeper.
Asks the right questions.
Does not fear silence and allows space for contemplation.
Actively encourages reflection – for example, by asking everyone to pause and write down ideas/takeaways around a specific question.
So what is the flow of successfully facilitating a meeting? Before the meeting, the work falls mainly on the meeting leader. The leader is responsible for deciding that the meeting is needed, scheduling it, and inviting the right people. They are the subject matter expert.
The meeting facilitator needs to read through the agenda to understand where you’re heading and the purpose and desired outcome of your getting together.
As the facilitator, you’re closer to the moderator of a debate or the leader of a talk show. You step into the limelight as the meeting starts and everybody is there. And here’s how you’ll do it successfully:
The meeting should start by assigning a note-taker to ensure you get all the genius ideas and decisions on paper. Alternatively, you can choose to have rotating minute-takers for each time.
Tip: In case you don’t have a note-taker, Airgram makes life easier by live transcribing the conversations, which can be reviewed, shared, and exported for easy access.
If applicable, you can also select a timekeeper whose sole responsibility is guaranteeing you’re on time. Involving participants contributes to the communal feeling that the meeting is for everyone – not just you and the meeting leader conveying information.
And if you want to increase the collaborative aspect further, you can get even more granular and assign everybody a different task. Or make a shared PowerPoint presentation where everyone gets to present one slide each. This is also a good hack if you experience low motivation during meetings – expanding and focusing on what you want to see rather than what you don’t want to see.
How’s everyone doing? What’s the general mood? Tired from just having finished a project, stressed over new requirements, excited over a new milestone? Addressing the collective state of mind helps create rapport and makes everyone feel seen from the moment the meeting starts.
You can also ask a simple question like what everyone did last weekend. Allow people to chat for a moment before diving into the meat of the meeting. This is particularly important if you’re working remotely and people may not even have met in person.
A good meeting starts with everyone understanding why they’re even there. Even if it’s your weekly team meeting, remember to repeat the outcome – especially if you have new employees on the team or someone who’s not usually participating. It’s easier to stay focused once you get the context.
To put it simply: you need to state what a successful meeting outcome looks like.
If it feels relevant, for example, meeting with a new constellation of people, it may be a good idea to state the house rules too. Examples could be: not interrupting, having the camera on, and saying goodbye before you leave. All this to increase engagement and the human connection.
Time to get the party started! Where did you leave off last time? What has been done? Has something been overlooked, and if so, why? Reviewing tasks from the previous meeting helps identify bottlenecks in processes and how you can reallocate resources for better results.
Knowing that you’ll go through last week’s assignments also entices meeting attendees to come well prepared. It can also encourage better time management.
Remember that it’s perfectly fine to have differing opinions on a subject – even within the same team. Reaching consensus – and doing a great job as a meeting facilitator – is reaching a point of agreeing on disagreeing rather than finding out who’s “right”.
Recording the discussions, especially crucial decisions and action items, is important so that everyone can agree on what path you decided to take, regardless of opinions. Airgram makes the task a breeze by providing live transcription and collaborative note-taking. The AI assistant automatically detects who’s speaking and assigns their name to their message.
As the great meeting facilitator you are, you don’t only have the technical skills down– but also the soft skills. Active listening is one of the most pertinent capabilities of a facilitator. No one likes talking to someone who looks bored and is just waiting for the other to stop.
Active listening can come in the form of body language/non-verbal cues. This can look like having an open and inviting body language (such as not crossing your arms), nodding, smiling, and keeping eye contact with the speaker. Another example is patience: not rushing the participants to finish their sentences but leaving space for silence and contemplation.
Keep these steps in mind during the meeting:
Connect. Connect to the speaker by making eye contact and listening attentively.
Reflect. Reflect to the participants what they just said.
Correct? Ask them if your reflection was accurate or if you misunderstood something. Anyone can misinterpret – but the sooner you can detect and course correct, the better.
Remaining neutral and non-judgmental is also essential for a good meeting facilitator.
As the above steps show, a part of being an active listener is to reflect back the general message to the interlocutors. It’s thus a good idea to wrap up the meeting by summarizing what has been said.
We’re all beautifully different. As the meeting facilitator, it is your job to realize that every attendee has excellent ideas – but not everyone is comfortable conveying them in front of the others. Some people will naturally take up space and talk during meetings, while others tend to disappear in group settings.
While you can’t oblige anyone to talk, make sure to create space and show them their opinion is valuable. You can also clearly state that they can send you a message or speak with you privately if they don’t feel like sharing in front of everyone.
On the other hand, people who talk a lot can also ignite the discussion and inspire others to follow. Show your appreciation and consider assigning them a role within the meeting (or company) where they can leverage their vocal gifts.
Another way to balance participation is to create break-out rooms (if the meeting is on Zoom) or smaller groups. That way, participants can discuss in a more intimate setting before sharing their insights with everyone.
Is the meeting about to go over time? Does everyone seem a little extra tired? Have you just had tight deadlines or launches? A good meeting facilitator can feel into the group’s energy like a DJ feels their audience and decide when it’s time to take a break or finish.
Energy is contagious – even virtually. It can often be more efficient to stop and save the less urgent points for next time than to keep going when everyone has zoned out and secretly scrolls for their next vacation. You can also consider adding a follow-up meeting the next day,
During an in-person meeting, a way of increasing the energy levels can be to get participants up to write on a whiteboard. Online, you can have everyone stand up and do simple movements like shoulder rolls or breathing exercises. Depending on the culture at your company, you can even put on a song and have everyone dance (optional: with their cameras on).
Any successful meeting comes with a sense of closure. As you wrap up, repeat any key decisions, along with action items and the date for the next meeting (if applicable). Ensure everything is clear and let the participants know they can reach out to you with any questions.
Depending on how you have allocated the roles, this task may or may not be on the meeting facilitator. True knowledge comes from repetition – by being able to look back at the meeting minutes, participants will retain the information better. Airgram makes the exportation of your notes to common word processors – like MS Word, Google Docs, and Notion – or Slack quick and easy.
Another cool feature is that you can export meeting clips. Instead of having everyone reading through the entire meeting minutes, cut out the highlights so that people can catch up quickly and easily.
Facilitating a meeting requires both art and science. Art as in feeling the group energy and managing who speaks when. Science as in getting the technical parts down – like assigning a note-taker and sharing the notes afterward.
Becoming a great meeting facilitator gets easier with practice. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Following these tips already takes you far. The reward is more engaged employees and thus higher work performance – and what can be more worth it?
Tobi is a writer and communications consultant with five years of experience in creating content for corporate and non-profit organizations. She enjoys writing on best practices for business processes, technology, ESG, and climate change.