One of the most important aspects of leading an organization or team is the skill of facilitation. According to ESC Consultant and facilitation expert Jack Smith there are three essential components to facilitating effectively: planning the meeting, managing the tools, and managing the meeting. Planning the meeting is the process that ensures the groups interactions and participation are constructive. Managing the tools ensures that the technical aspects for the sessions contribute to the meeting process and goals. The third and what many find most daunting is managing the meeting. However, with proper preparation and planning this can be the easiest part of the process.
Managing the meeting includes three components: planning the meeting, conducting the meeting, and following up after the meeting. Begin planning the meeting by defining the goals you want to achieve and from there set your agenda. The agenda should provide a preview for the meeting as well as setting the flow of the meeting. As part of the preparation, think through the following:
- The people – who needs to be there.
- Materials and audiovisuals – creating, gathering, and preparing
- Location – book a room or venue
- Decide whether or not the meeting goals would be better achieved through a face to face meeting versus a telephone conference or a virtual meeting
- What the process of the meeting will be
To help set the flow of the meeting and keep the meeting organized and on task, set a time for each agenda item. After the outline of the agenda has been established the rest of the information is “sandwiched” in. This “sandwiched” information will help make important decisions. Sending out the agenda ahead of time allows people to review and prepare discussion and thoughts on the agenda items.
While it may seem unnecessary to some, it is often a best practice to establish ground rules at the beginning of the meeting, such as, returning from breaks at agreed times, turning off electronic devices and cell phones, and reminding attendees to participate and listen actively and respectfully. Remember it is the facilitator’s job to leverage the diversity within the group. This is done by showing personal leadership, valuing and respecting the diverse opinion, and intervening if necessary to prevent inappropriate remarks. The facilitator is not there to be a lecturer, but rather to listen, ask leading questions to stimulate productive discussions, and keep the meeting on track.
After the meeting is over, sending out the meeting minutes is always best practice. The minutes should include notes on the discussion and decisions made during the meeting. Meeting minutes should not only consist of notes on the meeting but also action items and who was assigned to them.
If your nonprofit could benefit from affordable management consulting, please contact ESC’s Director of Consulting, Ulea Lago, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-357-5550. We serve nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and we offer a complimentary 2-hour assessment visit for all interested area nonprofits.