Business meetings: they can be intimidating, especially for the facilitator. Standing in front of a group of professionals leading an important discussion is not easy, especially when you are not prepared. Believe it or not, there is a formula to facilitating a successful group business meeting, and we’ve compiled a fool-proof list to help you rise to the occasion like an absolute pro.
Whether it be a PowerPoint, instructional video, or other visual, have something to rely on to keep you on track and organize your points beforehand. If it is something everyone will be looking at, such as a PowerPoint, keep the content, colors, and fonts professional and concise. Coming with tools to aid you in your facilitation will not only give you something concrete to rely on should you need help, but give your audience something to follow along. Furthermore, it will show the time and planning you put into the meeting beforehand – impressing everyone in the company, even your boss.
Dress the part
Look good, feel good, right? Coming to a business meeting in a coffee-stained shirt and wrinkled pants will only make you feel uncomfortable in front of your audience and add to your stress. Ensure you feel confident by picking a professional outfit beforehand, whether it’s a dress and blazer or nice slacks so you not only feel comfortable standing in front of your peers, but can’t wait to show off your professionalism! Be sure your outfit is steamed or ironed the night before (try a wrinkle releasing spray in a pinch) and ensure it stays clean until the meeting (we see you, morning coffee!)
Arriving early to familiarize yourself with the conference room where you’ll be facilitating can do wonders in easing anxieties. Getting a feel for the space will help you map out where you’re going to stand when, give you time to set up your electronics or props before your coworkers enter the room, and be sure everything is running smoothly before anyone has even arrived. When they do arrive, the first thing they’ll see is you, cool as a cucumber and ready to go! The last thing you want is to be nervously sweating as your laptop doesn’t connect to the projection screen while all of your coworkers watch the clock tick away – and the great thing is, such a situation is completely avoidable by being proactive!
Involve your coworkers
The great thing about being a facilitator instead of a presenter is that you don’t have to do all the talking. Instead, you’re simply a leader, meaning it’s your job to get your peers talking about important issues. Strategies to avoid singling people out when asking questions include going around the room giving ideas, group brainstorming on a board or screen everyone can see, and letting developing conversations flow freely by keeping them on track. People are more likely to listen when they know they can contribute their own ideas to the discussion, so get everyone involved for an engaged audience. While picking on one person the entire time is a no-no, calling the name of someone who looks like they have something to contribute but can’t quite jump in is part of your job. They’ll appreciate the nudge, and give you more time to gather your own thoughts.
Make use of technology
As discussed before, coming prepared is crucial to having a productive group meeting, and a great way to rock a group meeting like a pro is to involve modern technology. When posing questions, ask your coworkers to look up answers or statistics on their phones. Show lots of visuals via a projection screen, play music or podcast snippets directly from your laptop. Skills such as these are appreciated because they are modernized, and will give you an edge over those afraid to open their internet browsers. There are many business meeting facilitation tools already made and available online – download an already-existing PowerPoint or presentation to fit your needs and blow your audience away.
Get advice from a mentor
Before the meeting, set up a lunch or grab coffee with a facilitator in your company you look up to and seek their advice on keeping a meeting running smoothly. What are things they have tried and have worked? What hasn’t worked? Chances are, someone before you has tested the exact questions you have, and there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel! Make a list of questions you have before meeting with them to ensure you don’t miss anything – even conducting an interview-style meeting can be beneficial in giving you confidence and knowledge before it’s go-time. Be sure to consult someone who has facilitated before and feels confident offering their advice – if the person you approach seems hesitant, find a better match.
Do a practice run
Before the meeting, practice conversation starters in case of awkward silences and have a plan to fall back on in case you forget a point. The best part of facilitating is that you’re in charge, so no one knows what’s supposed to happen – if you miss a point or two, only you will know, and your presentation can still look flawless to onlookers. Practice runs will ease your nerves and give you an idea of how much time each topic will take, ensuring you don’t go over time or end awkwardly early with nothing left to say. As they say, practice makes perfect, and in this case, you can’t go wrong with a few trial runs!
The bottom line? Preparedness is key to making a meeting run smoothly. Relying on spur-of-the-moment thoughts or ideas will doom your presentation, so ensure you have backup information to cover if things speed up and your discussion is over before you anticipated.
Comment down below with your tips for facilitating an awesome group business meeting – what has worked for you in the past? What do you wish you would have known before walking into the conference room?
Sylvia Peters is a Collaborator for Find A Facilitator and a mother of two. She's also an expert to bringing the most credible, experienced and personable facilitation to every meeting she attended. In her free time you will find her meditating and making her favorite salad.