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Running the Meeting (Facilitating)

So you have created an agenda and figured out the time and place (as discussed in previous blogs). Now it is time for the meeting! In the meeting, strong facilitation is essential to moving the work of the team forward. While facilitation styles may vary based on individual styles and skills, here are some tips that can help within the SART meeting.

  • Beginning the meeting with an ice breaker can benefit newly formed teams (and many existing teams still use them). Some teams develop a ritual, such as asking a fun question at the beginning of each meeting to build relationships between team members. Others use ice-breakers to strengthen collaboration or increase understanding about the work of the team and individual members.
  • Teams benefit from having established ground rules for within meeting interactions and decision making. This should be established early on in the team formation, shared with new team members, and revisited as needed.
  • Vary the format of the meeting – including things such as small group discussions, activities, trainings, and large group discussions can help accommodate different learning styles and encourage engagement from all members.
  • Clearly discuss with the group the purpose of the meeting—at the beginning of the meeting.
    • If there are new team members or team members who have missed meetings, it is important that they receive information beforehand about the work of the team. For new team members, that includes a longer process of ensuring they understand the focus and scope of the team. By providing information in advance, it can help to limit cyclical conversations.
      • If someone has missed meetings and wants to rehash decisions that were already made, it is often best to move the team along from that discussion as it can frustrate team members who had been there and halt momentum of the work. By giving access to past meeting minutes and key decisions before the meeting, the onus is on the team member to raise this before the meeting or accept that decisions were made without them being present. This is also why having team decision making structures in place benefit the work of the SART.
    • Refer to the agenda and keep discussion focused on the meeting objectives.
      • This might include re-focusing conversation if it gets off-topic or starts to introduce new topics that would be better addressed at a future meeting.
      • Some teams set time limits for each section of their agenda to help ensure that all needed things are given adequate time for consideration and discussion.
      • Having the team mission on the agenda or otherwise posted in the room can serve as a reference point if the team
    • Provide information, not opinions. It is okay to not know all of the answers in the moment.
    • Give participants time to think and process information.
      • This can be aided by having needed information available before the meeting
    • Encourage input from all participants and respect everyone’s opinion.
      • Check-in with team members if they regularly do not participate. See if there are things that can be done to help them participate more, even outside of the meeting times.
      • If certain members speak too much, exert power within situations, or discourage others from participating in discussions through their actions, this needs to be addressed either through the facilitator re-focusing the team, taking steps to respectfully but assertively allow other people to talk, or talked about with the individual outside of the meeting.
      • If a person becomes too disruptive to the work of the team or refuses to engage, you may need to consider seeking another representative from that agency.
    • Tie together various comments, questions, and concerns raised in discussions.
    • Observe body language and respond appropriately. This response might be within the meeting or outside of the meeting.
    • End the meeting with a review of next steps and clarifying decisions that were made that day.

If the coordinator or current facilitator has issues facilitating the meeting (such as multiple meetings that feel unproductive or negative), it may benefit the team to explore having co-facilitators or a new facilitator. This might mean engaging with an influential team member to help build relationships or focus on the work of the team.

What are other facilitation tips or ideas that you would want to share or learn more about?