Seven Killer Ground Rules for Effective Meeting Facilitation
By: Mary Lee Gannon
We’ve all been in meetings that are engaging and we’ve all been in
meetings that were a dreadful waste of time. Most of the time the
success of a meeting depends on the meeting facilitator. So if you
are facilitating a meeting, be sure to do the behind the scenes work
ahead of time so that the meetings will produce the outcomes that
Good facilitation of a meeting involves three key components:
Analysis – Sometimes meeting facilitators jump to create a debate
over issues of content before an appropriate process is in place.
Example: A group may be discussing whether or not to fundraise for
a specific purpose when they have not yet decided if it is good time
to fundraise at all. It is also good to identify if someone involved in
the meeting has a specific intent or personal interest in a specific
outcome and define that upfront.
Communication – The facilitator must listen, summarize and re-frame. Typically they do not advance an opinion but ask questions to stimulate new ideas. The facilitator posts ideas on a flip chart or
post board so that nothing is lost and so that later ideas may be
voted on, prioritized or put in appropriate categories. If the topic is
getting off track or moving in a negative or unproductive direction, it
is the facilitator’s job to redirect the focus back to the purpose of the
Familiarity with Process Models – Meetings whereby the process
is to vote on an issue before moving forward are becoming less
popular. Today many meetings operate with the consensus
process whereby nothing can move forward unless everyone is in
agreement that they can support the issue. This gives everyone
less angst about the issue moving forward without appropriate
consensus from everyone. Underlying attitudes of cooperation,
support, trust, respect, and good communication are essential for a
productive meeting and for consensus building.
In order for any project to succeed it must be set up to do so from
the start. This concept applies to meetings as well. Ground rules
should be shared with a group ahead of time so that everyone
understands the culture of the meeting before you move into the
purpose of the meeting, agenda and desired outcomes. Typical
meeting ground rules revolve around start and end times, no
interruptions such as cell phones or email etc. I say establish those
as “Logistical Standards.” Additionally, I encourage clients to
establish “Killer Ground Rules” such as the ones listed below so as
to encourage a safe environment of high energy, idea creation,
openness and forward thinking. The reason I call them “Killer”
ground rules is because these rules “kill” the negative stereotypical
images associated with typical meetings.
Seven Killer Ground Rules for Effective Meetings
1.) Share all relevant information.
2.) No idea is a bad idea.
3.) All ideas and opinions will be respected.
4.) All ideas and opinions will be encouraged to survive the
a.) You’ve stated the reasoning behind the idea/opinion
b.) You’ve given specific examples
c.) You’ve shared any personal intention or benefit to you
5.) All participants are invited to ask questions of an existing point of
6.) The focus should be on goals, not solutions or personal
intention. A solution is a strategy of how you meet your goals. The
group will create solutions to an agreed upon mutual goal. (The
best people at creating innovative strategies don’t allow themselves
to draw an opinion or solution until they have gathered all of the
7.) Before the meeting ends, the group will jointly design next steps
that demonstrate the level of commitment necessary to succeed.
Effective meetings require planning, a healthy culture, a purpose
and good leadership. Start now!
Email this to a friendwho may appreciate the advice. Follow Mary
Lee’s tips on Twitter at StartingOverNow.
Mary Lee Gannon is a personal turnaround, leadership and
productivity expert who went from being a stay-at-home mother with
four children living a country club life to the reality of a difficult
marriage, divorce, homelessness, and welfare. As a guest speaker,
she demonstrates how she went from an earning capacity of
$27,000 to president and CEO. Her book “Starting Over – 25 Rules
for When You’ve Bottomed Out” is available in bookstores and
online. Email Mary Lee at info@StartingOverNow.com.