This article was based on episode 218 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community get two articles Rae has authored and published in Harvard Business Review: “Please Stop Using These Phrases in Meetings'' and “When Do We Actually Need to Meet in Person?” Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.
Let's face it, we've all had to suffer through a bad meeting. Whether it was because one person dominated the conversation, everyone argued without listening, or no one felt comfortable speaking up, the result is the same: feeling like your time was wasted.
I recently had a chance to speak with industry expert, author, executive coach, and founding President of The Ringel Group, Rae Ringel. Rae, who is also a faculty member for the Georgetown University Institute for Transformational Leadership and founding director of their certificate program in the Art of Facilitation and Design, shared some of her favorite ways to lead effective meetings using the best facilitation techniques, and how virtual meetings have the potential to be more inclusive and immersive than you might expect.
DO MORE THAN LEAD, FACILITATE
Most of the time, when we’re in charge of a meeting we’re leading it. We direct the group to follow the agenda, share information, and ask questions to the group. Facilitation, on the other hand, is about designing an experience. A facilitator’s responsibility is to create a safe space where everyone involved can participate and be heard.
Facilitation is important when conducting an effective meeting because it helps you provide an engaging experience for your team members. For so long, poor meetings have been viewed as simply part of the job. Even two years into virtual work, many managers are still struggling to host meaningful and engaging virtual meetings. What’s surprising is that, with the return to in-person working for many organizations, managers are also finding that in-person meetings seem to be just as challenging given the new hybrid work environments.
By employing facilitation techniques, managers can improve engagement, deepen thinking, and increase the positive energy in their meetings.
FACILITATION TECHNIQUES FOR EFFECTIVE MEETINGS
If you do not have the privilege of having an outside facilitator come to your team or project meetings, you may be struggling to find the most effective techniques to improve your team’s conversations.
During our in-depth conversation on facilitation techniques, Rae suggested many perceptive ways to design a meeting that increases team member participation by 100%!
As many managers may already know, a good practice is to send out agendas to all participants so everyone can be prepared for the discussion. However, Rae also suggested planning ahead to make your agenda interactive. She offers the model of HIIT (high impact interval training) where you alternate between passive and active activities.
To make your meeting more interactive, try the following:
Prepare a set of questions to ask the group.
Run a live, anonymous poll.
Create slides with sticky notes for people to type on and/or move around.
These are things you can do prior to the meeting to set yourself up for success during the meeting.
MAKE MEETINGS MORE INCLUSIVE
Whether leading in person, virtually, or a hybrid meeting (where one or multiple people are joining remotely), it’s important to create a sense of togetherness. This is doubly true where some participants just happen to be on screens. Too often it feels like the virtual participants are secondary. Instead, we need to over-emphasize their participation, and by doing so, we can boost everyone’s engagement.
Technology allows meeting facilitators to be more accommodating to the different ways people can be most effective and productive. This means virtual and hybrid meetings can actually be more inclusive than in-person meetings without technology present. For example, consider how you can utilize different communication methods such as large or small group discussions, writing/typing, and moving items on a screen. Using different methods of communication during meetings can help provide more opportunities for team members to contribute, equalize the playing field, reduce fear of judgment, and accommodate different abilities.
Tools and Platforms for Meeting Facilitation
Different tools and platforms allow you to create an engaging agenda that won’t leave your team members feeling drained.
Here are a few great tools you can use to help you design interactive meetings:
SharePoint / OneDrive / Google Doc - for collaborative document work
JamBoard / Padlet - for sticky note style work
Mural / Miro - for a variety of tools
Menti - for various polling activities
Using these types of tools allow you to effortlessly have real-time collaborations, document sharing, and a consistent experience for everyone involved.
Before incorporating new tools, explore if there are already tools that your company or team is familiar with. Using existing tools reduces any chances for confusion and wasted time during the meeting.
If you do end up using a program that your team isn’t familiar with, it may be a good idea to send over a tutorial or video about the tool before the meeting. You could even hold a mini-practice session for 15 minutes where everyone has a chance to use the tool together without the pressure of an additional agenda. That way everyone is on board and understands the process when the actual meeting begins.
Facilitating effective meetings is a skill that you can develop over time. With practice, patience, and the right tips and tricks to get you started, you’ll be well on your way to improving your meetings and engaging your colleagues.
KEEP UP WITH RAE
Get two articles Rae has authored and published in Harvard Business Review when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 218 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.