Too often in meetings, although there are good intentions, discussions go on too long and the objectives of the discussion are not achieved. Following some simple best practices will enable for more effective discussions during meetings, ensuring that the discussions are well-facilitated. Consider these eight best practices steps for ensuring an effective and worthwhile (and successful) discussion at your next meeting.
Follow these eight best practice steps for facilitating discussions with meeting participants:
Prior to the Meeting
- Provide back-up information about discussion items on agenda prior to meeting along with information about the expected outcome from the discussion. Provide the agenda with the topics of discussion as well as who is facilitating, expected participants and timing for discussion.
During the Meeting
- State the purpose of the discussion and ensure understanding of the topic. Consider the use of round robins for contribution to discussion (especially for virtual meetings.)
- Ensure understanding of the objective of the discussion – what is the expected outcome (for example, a decision, next steps, agreement to move forward.)
- Begin discussion and build on ideas presented, adding new ideas when individuals can no longer build on a previous idea. This enables for more fully developing the ideas presented.
- Summarize the discussion on various points during the discussion.
- Manage time for each discussion and ensure that participants stay on track and on topic. If something is brought up that is off topic, add it to the parking lot list.
- Close discussion and summarize.
- Set an action plan or “to do” based on decisions made during the discussion.
After the Meeting
Share the notes and action plan/to do from the meeting.
As a facilitator, to keep discussions moving along, be sure to:
- Clarify participant’s comments to ensure understanding
- Encourage participation by all attendees – reaching out to the quieter ones
- Summarize the discussion at regular intervals to ensure understanding among all participants
- Manage time effectively to ensure that the objectives of the discussion are met
- Ensure a healthy and productive discussion, sharing of ideas and knowledge among participants