On average, employees spend more than a third of their workday in meetings. For many of us, it seems like a lot more than that. A poorly organized, unproductive meeting can feel endless. Moreover, when we leave a meeting where little, if anything, has been accomplished, it feels like we have wasted time that could have been spent doing something more productive.

Staying on Track

How do you keep a meeting for which you’re responsible from being one that people dread coming to and leave feeling frustrated? Here are 10 signs that you need effective meeting facilitation, whether from an outside certified facilitator or someone on your team.

1. There is no agenda.
An agenda can be as detailed or general as you like, but a good agenda lays out what you want to accomplish and can help you get things back on course if the participants stray from the purpose of the meeting.

2. It has no stated purpose.
Speaking of purpose, your meeting needs to have one. Otherwise, why bother? Even if it’s just a chance for you to touch base with your team, there should be something you want to accomplish. Otherwise, you risk one or a few people taking it over with their own agenda or complaints.

3. A few people dominate the meeting.
Unless the meeting is called for the purpose of hearing from a few specific people, everyone should have an equal opportunity to participate.

4. The discussion gets off track.
One of the marks of a good meeting leader is keeping the discussion on track. That’s why everyone should have a copy of the agenda. It helps bring the conversation back to the issues at hand.

5. Everyone’s talking, and no one is listening.
This is a problem that a strong meeting facilitator or leader can prevent. You can lay out the rules upfront if necessary. Make it clear that only one person speaks at a time and that others need to listen. Do not tolerate side conversations.

6. No one is talking.
That can be a sign of any number of things. Maybe people don’t feel free to express their thoughts in front of the leader and/or other employees. A good group facilitator encourages everyone to speak and requires that others be respectful of everyone’s ideas and viewpoints.

7. The wrong people are in the meeting.
This could be another reason why no one is speaking. They don’t have a vested interest in the topic. This is something you can prevent with proper meeting planning. Make sure that the decision-makers are included, or at least people who can relay the outcomes of the meeting to the decision-makers.

On the other hand, be sure that everyone impacted by the decisions made at the meeting is invited so that they can be part of the discussion. You don’t want to reach a decision and then find out later that it can’t be implemented. By giving everyone a chance to be present or a least send a representative, you can prevent the meeting from being a waste of time. Perhaps more importantly, this way you won’t anger or hurt those whose help and support you’ll need.

8. Only one point of view is heard.
When a meeting facilitator or leader is invested in a particular solution or point of view, that’s often the time to call in a professional facilitator. If you truly want a diversity of opinions, it’s essential that people feel free to offer them. That’s the only way to get people to think outside the box.

9. Nothing is accomplished.
Unfortunately, you often don’t realize this until it’s too late. If the meeting ends with nothing decided or accomplished, except possibly the scheduling of another meeting, it hasn’t been effective. Learn from your mistakes for next time.

10. There’s no follow-through.
Communicate with the people who were at the meeting afterward to let them know what happened with issues that were raised or decisions that were made. It’s fine to do this at the next meeting if you’re having regular meetings on a project, but the sooner you follow up via email or other communication, the more they’ll feel like their input matters and that you’re on top of the situation.

People want to know that their time is respected. If you invite them to meetings where nothing is accomplished, the discussion is disorganized, there is no follow-up on the issues or decisions that come out of the meeting, or they sense that you aren’t in control, pretty soon people will start finding a reason to skip your meetings.

There are many reasons why people go to Find A Facilitator for certified professional facilitators or Certified Master Facilitators to help them with their meetings. Whether its strategic planning, process improvement, team building or issue resolution, we can match you with a certified facilitator with the skills and experience that will serve your specific needs. Just complete our “Find A Facilitator FAST” form on our website and one of our Client Relationship Managers will be in touch to see how we can help you and employees get more out of your meetings.