The final step in preparing for your meeting is that of assigning meeting roles to those who will assist you in the meeting. These meeting roles include Recorder, Facilitator, Participants, and you as Leader. Meet with the Facilitator to discuss his/her role. Meet with the Recorder to let that person know what you expect. Let's consider these meeting roles.
This role is very important since the results are sometimes the only documentation of what occurred in the meeting. In general, if you are taking minutes which will be copied and sent to participants, include: the date, time, and place of the meeting and those in attendance; agenda items with brief discussions and major contributors; problems discussed and decisions made; action assignments and deadlines. A sample form follows.
Meeting called by:
Gets everyone to participate
Remains neutral in disagreements
Regulates discussion "traffic"
Focuses group on same issues
Protects people from attack
Monitors time spent on agenda items
Assists Leader in managing the meeting
Let's differentiate the Facilitator and the Leader roles. First, can one person do both? The answer is yes, but not as well. Results are usually better when the two roles are separated. Meetings are usually shorter and more productive, so that follow-up meetings are fewer. If you use a Facilitator for several meetings, you will appreciate the difference. The following suggestions are for Facilitators, but if you don't have one in your meeting, you as Leader should follow these guidelines.
Serve as a discussion traffic director "Is everyone clear on these directions?" "Trent, hold that thought until we get to that agenda item!" "Have you finished? OK, now it's your turn to talk." "Are we getting anywhere now? Is it time to move on to the next item?" "Hold on; let's talk one at a time. Bill, you first, then Venita, then Patrick."
Command the attention of the group When a group gets frustrated, walk up close to them to get their attention, then indicate on the overhead or the brown board where the meeting is stalled and suggest a way to move on. If a group is silent, ask whether they're just thinking and need time or whether they need direction. ("Are you asleep or thinking?") Resist being a "ham." You are there to direct the focus of the group, not monopolize the conversation.
Ensure participation Be positive and encourage people. ("We're doing a good job here; keep going!") Ask quiet people for their input; stop those who dominate groups. ("Thanks, Jill. What do think on this, Jim?")
Restart when things go wrong If groups get bogged down, take them back to a previous point and encourage them to think in different directions. ("Looks like you're off track and some of you have tuned out. Let's backtrack and redirect the discussion.")
Distinguish between conflict and interpersonal confrontation People should be listening and reacting to ideas, not focusing on each other's personalities. Even if they seem to be teasing, derisive words linger in the air and in some people's minds. Foul language does, too, so ask people to refrain, even from slang and colloquialisms. ("That's one idea; let's record that. What do other people think?" and "Let's keep the language clean.")
Remember to focus on the meeting You are in a powerful position when you facilitate. Don't abuse this power. The group came to work, not listen to you, so let the participants do the talking, and don't bask in the limelight. If groups are doing well, step aside and let things happen. You may only have to speak every few minutes, so be brief and concise.
Remain neutral Even if Participants ask what you think, don't state your views on meeting content. Leaders can state their views; they are dealing with meeting content. Facilitators can't state their views; they're too busy tending the meeting process.