Tips for Facilitating Productive Meetings and Workshops

Facilitation supplies
Facilitation supplies

A collection of real world tips and advice on how to run productive meetings and workshops.

Start Off Strong by Reviewing the Goals and Objectives

  • Review the goals and objectives at the beginning of the meeting and make sure everyone is able to see them/read them (ex. display them on a slide that everyone can see)
  • Be sure to ask if anyone has questions, or needs anything clarified, before you begin
  • Keep the goals and objectives up and visible when you can (in-person), or repeat them periodically (remote) to keep them top of mind

Share the Why

  • Explain WHY the goals and objectives you have outlined are important and HOW their participation is going to help
  • When participants understand the goals and objectives, along with why they are important, they will be more focused, engaged, and motivated

Establish the Rules of Engagement

  • Review your 3–5 rules of engagement with the group, at the beginning of the meeting or workshop
  • This creates an environment where the group knows the expectations and will self-police outlier behavior. (Peer pressure can be a very powerful tool)
  • Lead by example. Participants will pickup on your energy, attitude, and behavior. As the facilitator you need to be the constant, not the variable. 😀

Show Don’t Tell

  • Share your screen!!
  • Display documents, notes, and diagrams in a way that everyone can see. Make it as easy as possible for the meeting participants to understand what is going on

Timebox Activities

  • Timeboxing is a great way to keep people focused on the task at hand
  • It’s also a great way to redirect a group that is drifting
  • As the facilitator, review the output from timeboxed activities with the group (as time allows) and ask questions about what was shared
  • This will create an environment where participants feel heard, which will help to keep them engaged
  • Make sure the timer is visible to all of the workshop participants

Have Empathy

  • Acknowledge the current challenges participants may be facing, and be mindful that everyone is adjusting to a new normal and may be under loads of stress
  • Everyone’s time is valuable. Come to the meeting prepared, on time, and be sure to thank people for participating

Make Sure Participants Feel Heard

  • When participants don’t feel like their opinions and feedback are being acknowledged they may become disengaged and/or disruptive
  • Utilize the parking lot to acknowledge and document comments and feedback that are out of scope
  • When you think (or know) a topic is out of scope, call it out by asking the group if the topic that is being discussed is useful or necessary to accomplish the goals and objectives you outlined at the beginning of the session. You’re not attacking the person, just asking for clarity and feedback from the group
  • If there are participants who continue to discuss topics that are out of scope, take a moment to display and review the goals and objectives
Clapper and workshop toys
Clapper and workshop toys

Monitor the Group for Participants Who Are Quiet or Disengaged

  • Utilize a variety of tools and activities to provide an opportunity for everyone to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts (ex. anonymous surveys, divergent alone work, etc.)
  • Create a safe, open, and friendly environment for your participants. When workshop participants feel safe they will be more open to share and engage

Monitor the Group for Participants Who Are Dominating the Conversation

  • Give over talkers and other dominant personalities something to do (ex. take meeting notes, document the things they are saying, basically anything that will force them to shift their focus from talking nonstop to performing another task)
  • When you share your ground rules, make sure it’s clear that you expect the group to support each other and that you would like to hear from everyone

Closing Thoughts

In my experience, groups typically do a better job of staying on track when everyone understands the end goal and why it’s important.

Depending on the situation, this may be more challenging than you expect. But, at a minimum, everyone in the room needs to know why they are there.

Unclear or misaligned goals and a lack of direction and/or leadership are typically what will quickly take a group off track.

Uncertainty leads to confusion. Confusion leads to frustration. And frustration leads to disengaged workshop and meeting participants.

Written by

Facilitator | Strategist | Army Vet | Always Forward!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store