Many skills required to facilitate also apply to chairing meetings.
Success begins with vision and meeting vision comes alive by articulating the purpose, scope, and objectives in advance. Other considerations that support successful facilitating or chairing rely heavily on people skills such as:
- Ability to trust in the good nature of the human spirit, even in high-risk situations
- Accepting participants for what they are and not what you wish they were
- Capacity to approach people for their present value rather than past performance
- Embracing human nature that does not require approval or recognition
- Willingness to treat everyone, even casual acquaintances, with common courtesies and kindness
Flexibility when Chairing Meetings
Effective leaders when chairing meetings also remain flexible. Ironically, the best-prepared and fully structured plans afford the most freedom and flexibility because they provide a back up plan if ad hoc or spontaneous discussions prove fruitless. As emphasized in other posts, communicating clearly is important to any leader, facilitator or chair. Beware of participant biases and tendencies including:
- Missing the context through which a claim may be valid
- Overgeneralization that causes lost or misinterpreted meaning
- Presumptions that everyone is thinking what the subject matter expert is thinking
- Primacy and recency affects—whereby the first and final arguments carry more weight
- Use of terms that are unclear or ambiguous
16 Tips when Chairing Meetings
Additionally, and specifically when chairing meetings, as opposed to workshop facilitators, here are seventeen additional and valuable tips:
- Always know your deliverable, that is the same as the meeting objective and logically identical to starting with the end in mind. In the world of Lean Sigma, this is called “right to left” thinking.
- Always strive to separate facts and evidence from beliefs and opinions.
- Arrive first and prepare your physical space for optimal seating arrangements.
- Clarify frequently so that everyone is offered an opportunity to question and challenge. They will find it easier to challenge you as chair, than the original speaker who may own the content.
- Consider posting the deliverable visually on a large sheet of paper, and restate periodically to reinforce the purpose of the meeting.
- Explain your role and aspiration to embrace the people and communication skills mentioned above.
- Help manage conflict and do not simply ignore it. Some of the best ideas and strongest solutions result from getting conflict out in the open where everyone can understand.
- Limit the size of the meeting by keeping representation between five and nine participants, known to be the “sweet spot” for optimal decision-making. The Agile methodology calls this seven, plus or minus two.
Additionally . . .
Manage administrivia such as bathroom locations and safety procedures during your introduction.
- Manage transitions carefully by reviewing a closed agenda step and clearly moving on to the next open agenda step.
- Prepare, presell, and at the start of the meeting review the meeting purpose, scope, objectives, agenda, and estimated duration. Because participants should own the meeting output, they have a right to influence how the output is built.
- Protect your participants but realize that it is not your job to reach down their throat and pull it out of them. As employees or associates, they have a fiduciary responsibility to speak up when they can offer value.
- Remain impartial during arguments, or at least demonstrate the appearance of impartiality so that participants can arrive at their own conclusions.
- Restrict discussion to agenda items or you will subject yourself to scope creep within the meeting, and risk not getting done on time.
- Seek contributions from everyone but do not embarrass anyone by forcing them to speak.
- Start on time and police and breaks carefully as well. Do not penalize participants who are on time by starting late.
- Take breaks when necessary, likely more than traditional. A five-minute break every 40 minutes may be better than a fifteen break every two hours.
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.)
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- Four Activities to Efficiently and Effectively Wrap-up a Meeting (mgrush.com/blog)
- Taking Charge of Poorly Led Meetings When You are Not the Leader (mgrush.com/blog)
- Leadership Style Depends on Source of Ideas & Solution Ownership (mgrush.com/blog)
- 15 Fun and Quick Tips to Help You Become a More Successful Facilitative Leader (mgrush.com/blog)