Cat Herding 101: 9 tips for effective meeting facilitation

Cat Meeting

Do you sometimes feel you’re losing control of a meeting and don’t know how to get it back on track? It only takes one side conversation that takes a life of its own or one tenacious attendee to derail the focus of the entire group. Once you lose control, herding the cats back into the corral can seem like an impossible task.

Here are 9 tips to help you become a cat herding champion.

But first, why does it matter? Shouldn’t a facilitator ensure that everyone has their say? Yes and no. The facilitator needs to be respectful of everyone in the room and be aware of his or her responsibilities.

Participants expect that the meeting will run on time, and complete the agenda. When this happens, they feel a sense of accomplishment and that their time has been well spent. If you deliver this consistently, volunteers will be easier to attract and retain for your organization. Effective meeting facilitation is a hallmark of the High Performance Organization TM.

The 9 tips below can be used effectively for any type of meeting; small or large.

Preparation: 3 Tips before your meeting starts

  1. Start with a pre-approved agenda.
  2. Ensure that each agenda item has a time limit consistent with the priority and complexity of the agenda item.
  3. Ensure that briefing materials as required for each agenda item are included with the agenda. Make it clear that participants are expected to have read them.

Onsite: 6 Tips while you are facilitating the meeting

  1. Remind participants of your role as the facilitator. Your job is to keep the meeting on track and on time.
  2. Start by reiterating the agenda, timing and deliverables for the meeting. Note what needs to be accomplished.
  3. Allow equal time for the pros and cons for each agenda item; not equal time for each participant. Call a close when both sides have been well stated.
  4. Beware of rabbit holes. If the conversation gets off track, bring it back to the agenda item. Respect and record items that are not on the agenda and put them in a “parking lot” agenda for later.
  5. Build in regular time checks to the agenda and call out respectfully if the meeting is going overtime.
  6. When the meeting is completed, summarize the decisions and the parking lot items and compliment the participants on a job well done.

If you’d like some help training your leaders to be good facilitators and directors, contact the Zzeem team.


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Filed under Event Planning, High Performance Organization, Leadership Support Program, Volunteer Engagement

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