The Anatomy of an Effective Meeting Part 3: How to Facilitate

Active facilitation plays an important role in effectively managing Zoom meetings.

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Combat Zoom fatigue and optimize meeting productivity with these 3 steps

This is the third part of our 3-part series on “The Anatomy of an Effective Meeting.” Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Are you tired of sitting in back-to-back meetings? Do you end the day wondering if you actually accomplished anything?  As the country heads into the second year of remote work, many workers are likely experiencing these feelings, indicating that they’re experiencing some degree of Zoom fatigue.

Given the amount of time we spend on video conference calls these days, it’s especially important to be conscious of how we conduct ourselves and to find ways to optimize our time, especially when sitting in meetings.

For tips and best practices for navigating meetings in the remote or hybrid work setting, check out our 3-part series on “How to have effective meetings.” In this final piece of the series, we will explore the importance of using active facilitation and what this looks like in a meeting. 

According to the Association for Training and Development, facilitation is “the act of engaging participants in creating, discovering, and applying learning insights.” 

To get the most out of the time spent meeting, the person leading the meeting should make an effort to actively facilitate, rather than just letting the meeting unfold.

For a better understanding of what this means, let’s break active facilitation into 3 parts:

  1. Kicking off the meeting
  2. Managing the meeting as it unfolds
  3. Closing the meeting
To get the most out of the time spent meeting, the person leading the meeting should make an effort to actively facilitate, rather than just letting the meeting unfold.

Kicking off the meeting

When it’s time to start the meeting, it’s important to actively kick things off. For example, as people enter the virtual meeting, greet them politely. When the appointed start time arrives, consider incorporating the following components:

  • Share the purpose of the meeting: This lets people know of any expectations you have for them and explains the purpose or objectives of the meeting. For example, you might say something like “We are meeting today to talk about X. I am going to go over a few points, and when you have something to contribute or a question, kindly use the “raise your hand” function on Zoom.” 
  • Ask people if they have any questions: This gives colleagues a chance to share what they need to be successful in the meeting, or to ask about anything they may have missed.
  • Lighten the mood: Use some banter to get people comfortable. This can be a simple ice breaker such as asking how everyone is feeling or making an appropriate joke. This helps bring people into the conversation early on.

Managing the meeting as it unfolds

Once the meeting is flowing, here are some tips to keep the conversation on track:

  • Stay confident: You may sometimes get thrown off by participants’ reactions (or lack thereof). If your meeting is right after lunch, for example, some people might be tired and less likely to participate. Don’t take it personally. And remember, you don’t need to be the subject matter expert to confidently lead the meeting. You just need to be able to facilitate and guide a conversation towards a healthy and productive outcome.
  • Introduce parking lots: If the conversation seems to be going off topic, politely interrupt and say “This sounds like a really interesting discussion. Why don’t we move it to the parking lot, and those involved can continue it off line?”  While redirecting the conversation may feel awkward, it’s your job to keep the meeting on track and people will ultimately appreciate that you respect their time.
  • Assign meeting roles: As the facilitator, you don’t need to handle everything on your own. You may want to assign roles, such as note taker. Make sure to establish this early on.
  • Engage with people: Asking open-ended questions is a good way to engage others. Make sure to stop and check in with questions like “What thoughts do you have on that?” or “What else would anyone like to contribute on that topic?” Taking pauses to check in helps invite people who have drifted off to reenter the conversation.
  • Manage interruptions: If you notice one person talking over others, try saying something like “Thanks so much for sharing that Jan. Ed, why don’t you finish your thought.” Make sure everyone gets a chance to speak and that it’s not just the loudest person who dominates the discussion.

Closing the meeting

Now your meeting is coming to an end, and it’s time to wrap things up. Here’s what you can do:

  • Summarize the meeting goals: If there are any outcomes, action items, or shared agreement, recap those and assign any action items to members within the meeting.
  • Schedule the next meeting: If the action items need to be discussed, be sure to schedule the next meeting so that they become timebound.
  • Thank everyone for their time: Always remember to be cordial and thank people for their participation.

That wraps up our 3-part series on effective meetings. How will you run your next meeting differently? Let us know!

Check out our People Ops Podcast episode “Setting up Managers for Success in a Remote-Friendly Future”

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