Becoming a skilled meeting facilitator doesn’t happen overnight — it takes lots of patience, continual learning, and confidence. All of that might sound overwhelming, but with some practice, anyone can hone their skills and start running meetings like a boss.
No matter what kind of meeting facilitator you are (Scrum Master, Agile coach, etc.), this list of skills will help you succeed in any meeting setting imaginable.
What Makes a Good Meeting Facilitator?
No meeting can run smoothly without a facilitator. They are the ones who plan, organize, and execute the meeting so that the rest of the team can focus on important tasks and getting something accomplished.
With that in mind, these are ten skills that a meeting facilitator needs to have to be as successful as possible at their job.
1) Be a planning guru
If you want to be the best meeting facilitator you can be, planning should be your middle name. Planning is the core of all meetings. Without it, you will be walking blindly into a meeting, which doesn’t help anyone involved.
Running a meeting is not improv.
Facilitators should plan for who will be at the meeting, where it will be, the talking points they want to focus on, and what they want the outcomes to be. This can include things like sending out documents or notes ahead of time to everyone who will be in attendance.
Planning doesn’t have to be stressful either. There are so many digital tools (like Stormboard!) that make it easier than ever to plan from anywhere at any time, using templates and guides to get you going.
2) Assert, don’t scare away
Managers and team leaders sometimes have the tendency to come across as scary or intimidating, but that does little to make team members feel at ease during a meeting.
It’s best for meeting facilitators to remain assertive, have some control, and guide the discussion over the course of a meeting without making everyone in the room feel uncomfortable.
At the end of the day, a meeting leader still needs to have control over what goes on in a meeting, so assertiveness is necessary — as long as it doesn’t cross a line.
3) Have positive vibes
If a facilitator is negative during the meeting, it can put everyone in a bad mood, and that just isn’t good for getting work done.
Keep it positive! The facilitator needs to be welcoming and open-minded in order to hold the attention and respect of everyone in the room. This will keep the energy of the meeting high and will encourage a collaborative environment.
4) Listen with intent
Positivity and organization go a long way, but one of the most important skills a meeting facilitator can have is the ability to listen.
It’s integral to listen to every person in the meeting and to know when someone wants to speak up but might be feeling unsure of themselves. If there is someone in the meeting who is dominating the conversation and talking over others, the meeting facilitator should know when to step in and guide the discussion in a more inclusive direction.
5) Time Management
Keeping track of the time during a meeting is important to everyone involved. Meeting attendees don’t want to stay longer than they need to, especially if it’s after work hours, and if a meeting is too short it might not be enough time to get anything done.
The meeting facilitator has to have a time in mind when planning the agenda, keep track of time as the meeting is occurring, and they need to know when to conclude the meeting at an appropriate point.
6) Ability to adapt
Anyone who’s been part of a meeting knows that even when there is a plan, things can go wrong, or unexpected ideas can emerge. Anyone who takes on the role as meeting facilitator should have the ability to adapt to any new situation at a moment’s notice.
For example, maybe a team member brings up a completely new topic that wasn’t on the agenda, but everyone likes it and wants to discuss it further. The meeting facilitator needs to know how to integrate that new idea into the meeting as time permits, or they need to incorporate it into a future meeting by making a note about it and thanking the team member for their input.
7) Don’t be biased
Whether you are the leader or not, you may have a strong opinion about a topic and want it to be heard. Being excited about a topic or wanting to share your ideas is great, but meeting facilitators need to maintain neutrality during a meeting and keep their bias to themselves.
Having input here and there is fine, however, the conversation should be directed towards the people attending the meeting. The facilitator is the guide to getting results, so having bias may steer the team towards ideas they aren’t fully on board with.
8) Envision the end game
What do you want to get out of this meeting? That is the main idea a meeting facilitator should have going into any meeting. If there is no objective, then a meeting will have no focus.
Know what topics will be discussed, and why these topics are being brought up at this particular meeting.
Is there a roadblock that needs to be solved? If yes, that should be the focus of your meeting to make sure you get the desired outcome from the conversation.
9) Speak with confidence
Speaking publicly is a daunting thing for many people. For meeting facilitators, this should be a skill they are reasonably comfortable with — after all, they will be up in front of a group for an extended period of time. Outgoing, well-spoken team members make the best facilitators.
Public speaking does get better with practice, so if a facilitator isn’t one hundred percent sure of themselves, they may be able to gain confidence by continually speaking in front of the group over time. Another great way to improve public speaking is having a co-facilitator to divide up the presentation duties and ease the nerves of being in front of a room of people.
10) Ask great questions
Facilitators who ask solid questions that move the discussion along are ideal. When new ideas get brought up, the facilitator will be able to ask a smart follow-up question that then leads to more ideas and conversation.
If ideas and topics aren’t followed up with, this can lead to a standstill or a lull in the meeting. This is why having a facilitator who is excellent at asking questions and keeping a meeting moving will be successful.