When facilitating a meeting, open with a reminder of the purpose and length of the meeting. Cover housekeeping items including how you plan to capture “Parking Lot” items (see below for more information).
If someone hasn’t already agreed to take the meeting notes, ask for a volunteer so that you can focus on facilitating the meeting.
TIP: Have a copy of the agenda – with extra spacing – in hand and offer it to the note taker, simplifying that task. Or, be prepared to forward an electronic copy to the note taker if taking notes electronically.
Ask the note taker to record the principal points discussed for each agenda item on the agenda and to please capture decisions made and/or action items assigned. When moving from agenda item to agenda item, check in with the note taker to determine if there are any clarification questions he/she might have.
TIP: For complex and sensitive topics, ask the note taker to read back to the group what was captured to make sure everyone is in agreement. This step helps reduce the “meetings after the meeting” that result in the need to revisit the same topics at a later date.
As the facilitator, keep an eye on the time and an ear open for items that are holding up the discussion or those that are off-topic. If there is a topic that is taking more time than expected, this might be a conversation to reserve for a separate meeting (parking lot) or you might use a tool (see below) to move the conversation along. If it’s a conversation that is off-topic, acknowledge the value of the point(s) being made and capture it in the parking lot for future discussions.
At the end of the meeting, if there needs to be a follow-up meeting in order to complete the conversations, let the attendees know you will be setting that up. Don’t let the meeting run over the scheduled time – you have a “time contract” with the attendees and it should be respected.
TIP: If you can wrap up the meeting early, thank your attendees for being engaged and focused and give them back the extra time – it’s a great gift for the busy!
Remember to ask the person taking notes when they will be able to get those published or, in some cases, it might make sense for you to ask for the notes and let the attendees know when you will have them published.
During any meeting you facilitate, you will have opportunities to support the creative talents of the attendees, manage through controversial conversations and keep attendees engaged.
Click here for a printable list of some effective tools that may come in handy.