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Facilitating a meeting

When facilitating or chairing a meeting, your goal is to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, keep the meeting on track, and help the group make decisions everybody is comfortable with. A good facilitator means you’ll get the most out of your meeting. Be fair, be impartial, and be alert to how the group is responding!

Remember an effective campaigns meeting is one where ideas are brought forward and turning them into realistic actions.

Preparing for the meeting

  • Prepare and circulate the agenda -You might want to discuss the agenda of on your facebook group/page and with your mailing lists
  • Organise a note taker
  • Get plenty of pens and note papers
  • Print out copies of the agenda.

Starting the meeting

  • Make sure somebody is taking minutes/notes
  • Try to get everyone sitting in a circle where you can all see each other. It’s important that the facilitator can see everyone in the room.
  • Introduce yourself, then go round the circle and let everyone else introduce themselves.
  • Hands up. Might seem obvious but to ensure everyone gets a chance to speak and doesn’t get talked over, ask people to put hands up when they want to talk.
  • Introduce the draft agenda. Ask if everybody is happy with it, and if anyone wants to add anything. Make sure everyone is aware of the time limit for the meeting.

During the meeting

  • Stick to the agenda
  • Keep the group focused. It’s easy to get off topic. If people go off topic, suggest you park the issue to discuss at the end. You might find it helps to have a flip chart to write down parked issues.
  • Remind people to be concise and don’t be afraid of asking someone to get to the point.
  • Encourage people to put proposals forward. These are concrete suggestions about what to do, for example an idea for an action, or a new way of running the group.
  • Once a proposal has been made, open up the discussion and thrash out the particulars.
  • Make sure decisions and actions points agreed are recorded. You don’t want your next meeting to be “didn’t we agree this?” “who was responsible for this?”
  • Decide date of next meeting

After the meeting

  • Email people to thank them for attending and to circulate decisions/actions points.
  • Evaluate the meeting. What went well and how could you improve it for next time.

How about using hand signals?

The consensus method uses hand signals so everyone can tell at a glance what the mood of the room is, without anyone having to talk over each other.

  • Someone wants to make a point: raise your hand. As a facilitator, try to remember the order in which people raised their hands!
  • Direct factual response: if someone has said something which requires a factual correction or clarification, the participant should point one finger from each hand upwards. They will “skip the queue” to speak and their point will be taken immediately.
  • Proposal: if someone has a concrete idea for how to move forward, they use both hands to make the shape of a letter “P”. The facilitator should acknowledge this immediately, but continue taking the points in the queue first. See below for how to deal with proposals.
  • Agreement: when participants agree with what someone is saying, they wave their hands in a “jazz hands” gesture.