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The facilitator is ideally situated to help meeting participants become better listeners. Dr Ralph Nichols, “Father of the Field of Listening”, notes three behaviors that perfectly align with the roles of facilitator, and you ought exhibit, which will create better listeners during meetings.

First of all, anticipate the speaker’s next point

As facilitator, your anticipation helps shape your direction. For example, should you be walking closer to the speaker or to the facilitator’s easel to capture their comments? Therefore, as meeting participants, if they anticipate correctly, learning has been reinforced. If they anticipate incorrectly, they wonder why and this helps to increase attention.

Another is to identify the supporting elements a speaker uses in building points.

Here is the primary role of the facilitator, to help extract the most significant contributions. Next ensure that the supporting elements are captured and recorded, preferably on a facilitator’s easel, so that all the meeting participants can view the same information.

Build understanding among your participants about supporting their thoughts, or as we say in the FAST curriculum “Make Your Thinking Visible.” Typically speakers rely on three methods to build points:

How You Can Help Your Meeting Participants Become Better Listeners

Better Listeners

  1. They explain the point,
  2. Speakers get emotional and harangue the point, or
  3. They illustrate the point with a factual illustration.

A sophisticated listener knows this.

He or she spends a little of the differential between thought speed and speaking speed to identify what is being used as point-supporting material. Consequently, this behavior becomes highly profitable in terms of listening efficiency.

A third way to improve the listening skills of your participants is to periodically make summaries of the points that have been recorded. Good listeners take advantage of short pauses to summarize and absorb what has been said. Periodic summaries reinforce learning tremendously.

Most of us are poor listeners for a variety of reasons. We have had little training and few training opportunities exist (although the FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership class is a significant exception). We think faster than others speak. Plus, listening is hard work and requires complete concentration. It is a challenge to be a good listener, but good listeners get big rewards.


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

Want a free 10-minute break timer? Signup for our once-monthly newsletter HERE and receive a timer along with four other of our favorite facilitation tools, free.

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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