As a retail consultant, I'm called on to facilitate brainstorming, planning, team, culture, franchise training and the uncomfortable "things have to change" meetings.
No matter the audience or size of group, people put up with a lot just because they don't set the expectations at the outset.
Then they have to put up with someone droning on and on about "how we used to do it," or someone sharing their detailed explanation that tries to show how smart they are or someone stays silent because they are uncomfortable sharing their ideas.
That's why people hire me. I always draw this up on a board to focus everyone at the start, especially if it is an employee meeting over an extended timeframe.
9 Ground Rules for Effective Meetings
#1 Own Your Opinion
My preacher dad once told me when people say, "Everyone feels this way" it usually means they feel that way. Encourage "I" statements throughout.
#2 No "Devil's Advocates"
Time suck and de-motivator to the group. If someone really feels that way, rephrase so it doesn't kill the spirit of brainstorming.
#3 Everyone Talks
It is up to the moderator to make sure and call out participants who haven't raised their hands. Ask them if they agree with a certain point and why or why not so they can relax and share.
#4 Stay On Point
It is perfectly OK to lead or redirect an off-topic point with, "How does this relate to the point we are talking about?" If they can't answer, suggest they write it on a slip of paper and "park it" until you deal with everyone's parking lot issues at the end.
You might be challenged on a position or have to admit you don't know it all. That's perfectly OK, don't try.
#8 Share A Vision Of What Is Possible
Brainstorming in particular is fragile. It's like the first draft of a story or song, you don't get a chance to go back to that "What if?" moment. There will be plenty of time to look at logistics and "reality" but only one time to be inspired - keep it alive as long as possible.
#9 If We Get Too Focused We'll Ask For A Majority Vote To Go 5 More Minutes On The Topic
A subject is being hotly contested but going too long to fit your agenda. Unless the majority votes to add five more minutes on the topic, move on. Works every time. You'll be much more productive and have more to show for at the end.
Make sure everyone knows to arrive on time.
If there are reports to be read, they must read them prior to the meeting - no one wants to have someone read page after page to them. Use the time to effectively harness feedback, not parrot what they can already read. This is especially important if you sit on a non-profit board.
These are by no means all the ways to make an effective meeting, but ones I've found as a facilitator could most keep a group focused and deliver actionable ideas everyone in the group could support.
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