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This means everyone can see what's happening and focus the discussion. People Meeting facilitation tips argue over small details and overlook the fact that they agree facilitztion the big picture. Making Mewting obvious to the group can help to provide ways forward. Meting when there is strong disagreement within the group, synthesis can help move the discussion on. Always try and find some common ground, no matter how small: This can reinforce that we're all on the same side, and remind a group of their overall shared aims - a necessary condition for consensus. Also synthesising a solution doesn't necessarily mean uniformity or unanimity.
Sometimes a solution is staring us in the face, but our desire to get full agreement becomes an obstacle: However some feel strongly that the target of our protest should be government, and others feel it ought to be corporations - is there any reason why we have to choose between the two?
Could facilitayion not agree that both can happen? In all cases it's important to get to the bottom of the underlying issues. Faacilitation your ability to spot problems and try and Meeting facilitation tips out why they are happening. Don't just ask "what is happening? Examples include dominating individuals who talk at the expense of others, or the cynic that shoots down every idea that's raised in the meeting. Whenever you're dealing with a 'difficult' participant, it's vital that you remember that the problem is their behaviour and not them as a person. It's also important to realise that they're rarely deliberately making life difficult for you. Chances are, that at some level, the meeting isn't addressing their needs.
By increasing people's ownership of the meeting you can increase their commitment to the outcomes, as well as improving behaviour in meetings. Addressing people's needs We all bring a number of needs with us, whenever we work in a group. Most of them are quite simple, and rather obvious. We need to feel that we are being treated fairly. We need our expertise and experience to be valued and our ideas and opinions to be heard. We need to feel part of a group and we need to feel like we're getting something useful done. When these needs aren't fulfilled people can easily feel alienated from the meeting. This often expresses itself in disruptive behaviour.
For example, they feel they had no say in the choice of agenda, and consequently can't see the relevance to them. Or maybe they feel that the meeting is a waste of time because their opinion won't be considered when it comes to making the final decision. Planning an interactive meeting agenda, then facilitating it in a way that allows everyone to participate should leave everyone happy from the start, and problems shouldn't arise. But if they do, discover why it's happening - what are the underlying causes? That way you can figure out what to do about it. If you're ever unsure ask the group what the problem is and actively listen to the answer!
Dominating behaviour It's common that groups have a handful of dominant personalities who do most of the groups' talking and organising. Don't tolerate it just because it happens. It can be very destructive for the group in the long-term. See Example Problem box below for ideas of how to deal with dominant. Example Problem - disruptive behaviour Tom is talking all the time and dominating the meeting. Hardly any one else gets a chance to speak. Underlying causes It may be due to power imbalance. Tom might hold a more senior position in the group hierarchy formally or informally - maybe he's a long-standing member of the group.
Perhaps there's a deficit of knowledge in the group - only some people know enough about the issue to feel confident in speaking. Perhaps Tom receives all the group's mail or emails. He naturally feels like he knows the most, and does a lot of talking to keep the rest of the group informed. Maybe Tom's not very sensitive to group dynamics. He's not being deliberately rude, but he simply doesn't realise he's so dominant. Possible solutions The facilitator can equalise speaking time by using tools such as the following.
Make a group agreement at the start of the meeting Meeting facilitation tips remind participants to let everyone contribute equally. Pro-actively ask other people for their opinion: What do other people think? Share out mailings and emails or have a short presentation at the start. Dealing with blocks in the process Time pressure Time constraints on finding a solution to Meeting facilitation tips urgent problem leads to stress. We need to allow enough time in the meeting for issues to be dealt with adequately. Prioritise which decisions need to be taken there and then and which ones can wait a while.
Some decisions could be delegated to smaller groups. Lack of focus Avoid having meetings in which several issues are being discussed at once. State clearly what the issue is and what needs to be decided about it. Explain when the other issues will be discussed and stop people from going off on tangents. Make a note of any new issues that come up and park them for later in the parking space. Example Problem - problem process The group has been talking about the current agenda item for well over an hour and still doesn't seem to be anywhere near a decision. It doesn't feel like any progress is being made.
Underlying causes Maybe the group doesn't have all the information it needs to make a well informed decision. Perhaps the group is tired and unfocussed. If it's a complex issue, maybe the range of possibilities is confusing the group. The group may be nearer to a solution than it realises, but isn't hearing its own common ground. Possible solutions Check with the group whether everyone feels well enough informed. If not, ideastorm a list of questions that need answering and work out who will do the necessary research. Can the meeting be put on hold briefly, whilst someone does research on the web, or do you need to come back to it another time? Take a break or do an energising activity, then try one of the other solutions.
Have a go-round to check where each person is in relation to the discussion - what do they think the obstacles are to making a decision? What are their favourite solutions? If the discussion is complex, break it down into its component parts. Maybe use small groups. Each small group can take one component part or possible solution and explore it in more depth before reporting back. Use your active listening skills to summarise the discussion so far - what have been the main concerns? Is there any agreement no matter how small? Stating areas of agreement can lift the group's spirits. Restate the aims of the discussion to refocus the group.
The group can't reach a decision A real consensus comes only after bringing differences out into the open. Encourage everyone to present their viewpoints, especially when they may be conflicting. This requires broad discussion and enough time. Listen carefully for agreements and concerns and the underlying issues. What's at the root of people's worries? This helps with drawing up a proposal that takes them into account. Test for agreement periodically. This helps to clarify disagreements. State the tentative consensus in the form of a question and be specific.
If you are not sure how to phrase the question ask for help. When there is time pressure or the group has lapsed into nit-picking, it can help to state the perceived agreement in the negative: If the decision is postponed it is often a good idea to engage conflicting parties in conflict resolution before the issue is brought up again; agree a process for taking a decision that all parties can sign up to. It may help if the group assures them that the lack of unity will be recorded in the minutes, that the decision does not set a precedent and that they won't be expected to implement the decision.
Don't mistake silence for consent - insist on a response from every participant. The group should be conscious of making a contract with each other. If an agreement is reached too easily then test to make sure that members really are fully supportive of the decision and do agree on essential points. If there are limits to the level of participation available to individuals, make these clear right at the start of the meeting. Are people simply being consulted, or asked to make a decision? Facilitating problems Step 1: Facilitating large group meetings Large group meetings pose particular challenges for facilitators.
Any more than 12 people can exhibit all the characteristics of a big group - it doesn't have to be hundreds of participants. Not everyone is comfortable speaking in front of a large meeting; be easily dominated by a confident few; have a slower pace and lower energy than smaller groups - taking longer to reach decisions. Preparing meetings for larger groups Planning: Larger group meetings need more preparation and planning. Often a tight structure will be useful, however this can also be overly restrictive for the meeting.
Try to strike a balance between structure and open flow. Which items need to be discussed and agreed by everyone? Which can be delegated to smaller groups? Not everyone needs to discuss the exact wording of the media release, or the order of bands for the benefit gig! Allow extra time for large group meetings so that people feel that there's been adequate discussion and an opportunity for people to express and hear all the ideas. Cutting off discussion and forcing a decision will leave lots of people feeling disempowered and frustrated. You will need a facilitation team who all know exactly what job they are doing - someone to facilitate, someone to take hands, someone to write up notes on a flip chart, maybe a separate timekeeper and a doorkeeper, someone to prepare refreshments.
Take time at the beginning of the meeting to explain clearly how the meeting will work, what the agenda is like, how decisions are made, what guidelines there are for behaviour in meetings. Make use of flipcharts to write up the agenda, key points of the discussion, key decisions etc. Try and ensure the flipchart can be seen by everyone in the group. Large plenaries and working in small groups In large groups it's sensible to consider whether you can delegate any of the issues to a smaller group. However, sometimes the issues will be so important that they have to be discussed and decided by everyone.
It can also be very inspiring to have an open discussion with everyone - collectively coming to good decisions and seeing that everyone supports the agreement reached. Large and small group processes can be combined to deal with some of the drawbacks of large meetings. Large group plenaries can be used to share information, making proposals and final decision-making. Splitting into small groups can speed up some of the discussion phases. The advantages of breaking into small groups for discussion are that they create safer, more dynamic spaces to work in and include more people in a discussion. Small groups can each discuss different elements of a topic, covering more ground in a shorter time.
Check each name off until everyone who wants to speak has done so. Synthesize the main themes to reframe the conversation Sometimes several different conversation themes emerge simultaneously in a meeting. When this happens, the facilitator needs to get everyone on the same page before moving forward. Ask the participants to take a step back, name the various topics, and decide with the participants which ones to pursue. Alternatively, you can provide suggestions for narrowing the conversation or organizing themes so that the meeting stays on track to achieve the desired goals.
You can also ask the note-taker to record remaining topics in the backburner for the team to revisit at a different time. Pause and allow for reflection Once the main subject has emerged, pause and provide time for silent reflection. Encourage and balance participation The facilitator should always be aware that some group members may be less vocal than others, and their voices are still important. Consider dividing participants into small groups for discussion to encourage participation from quieter team members. Then bring everyone back to the full group and ask for conversation highlights.
Take a break and re-energize When the energy in the room is low, or when people become restless, take short breaks. Longer meetings require even more break time. A mental break is especially helpful for introverts who need to recharge from a lot of talking. In addition, consider leading a quick stretching activity to help people feel physically and mentally refreshed. Restating the key outcomes verbally helps the group feel a sense of accomplishment. Improving your meeting facilitation techniques brings the sweet satisfaction of helping people engage with the content and each other, all while moving work forward.
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