How to Facilitate a Meeting

All successful meeting have a facilitator, who is recognised as the leader or chairperson. It is this person that keeps each item discussion focused and on track. They recognize who has a contribution to make and ensure everyone is given equal airtime.

Even the most contentious issues can be dealt with constructively and resolved to everyone’s satisfaction if the meeting facilitator controls the meeting properly. On the other hand, a badly run meeting leaves all of the attendees feeling frustrated that they have wasted their valuable time.

A few simple rules can make all the difference between achieving the goal of the meeting or not. This is especially important where you have meetings with external organizations. Each one has their own set of beliefs and expectations, for example,

A sales person may be used to meetings that are highly interactive.
A medical person is used to a more hierarchical meeting where one is invited to respond.

These differences in expectations often result in those from a more reserved culture feeling intimidated by those from a more assertive one.

So by having just a few simple rules your meetings can achieve the four benefits shown in the diagram below.


When defining the types of behaviors you want others to display during your meetings you need to outline your expectations from the start and not allow any deviations to occur. Your own behavior must set the standard others need to adopt.

The first rule is to always have a meeting agenda. This states the purpose of the meeting along with your objective and outlines the topics for discussion. Your agenda enables others to prepare properly for the discussions.

Setting times to each agenda item enables those attending to plan their day appropriately and effectively. These timings also give your discussions structure enabling you to facilitate the meeting and achieve your goal.

From the outset of the meeting you as the facilitator request all electronic devices to be turned off so that everyone is 100% focused on the meeting. You ask for people to wait for someone to finish speaking before they make a contribution. This rule ensures that no-one individual monopolizes the floor.

An essential part of achieving your objective is the ability to make decisions during the meeting. The rule that enables this to happen is asking participants to express facts not opinions in a calm and polite manner. This avoids displays of negative body language or disparaging comments being made.

If you adopt this proactive approach to what constitutes acceptable behavior at your meetings, you can prevent bad feeling developing between participants and make your role of facilitator more effective. This also ensures that each individual buys-into any resulting actions and their implementation.

Your meetings will be more productive and successful by taking the initiative to clearly define the rules by which they will be conducted. If you would like to find out more about how to Chair a Meeting then download our free eBook.

Key Points

  • The facilitator carries the ultimate responsibility for the success of the meeting and is responsible for making sure that all business is discussed in line with the timed agenda, everyone’s views are heard and clear decisions are reached.
  • By taking a proactive approach to what constitutes acceptable behavior at your meetings, you can prevent bad feeling developing between participants and make your role of the facilitator more effective.
  • Before the meeting begins the facilitator should: define the meeting objective and decide if this is the best way to address the issues, ensure the key contributors and those with authority to make decisions are invited to attend, develop a well thought out and timely agenda and assign a competent individual to take the minutes.
  • At the start of the meeting, the facilitator should: introduce the participants and make everyone feel welcome and state what it is that the meeting seeks to achieve as well as making clear how long the meeting will last.
  • During the meeting the facilitator should keep the meeting focused and on time and encourage participation and contributions from everyone.
  • After the meeting, the facilitator should check the minutes prior to circulation, and evaluate the meeting results against the objectives.

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