How much time do you spend in meetings?
I estimate that most of my working hours are spent in some form of meeting – whether in a One-on-One discussion or with a team. Like me, you probably spend most of your time on a conference bridge.
If you do, you may be interested in learning more about how to be more effective in managing, scheduling or facilitating conversations. If you are, I would highly recommend the presentation “High Impact Facilitation,” presented by Lynne Cazaly on the InfoQ website.
In the hour and a half long presentation recorded at Agile Singapore 2014, Cazaly talked about the process of facilitating and how to improve. She had many useful tips for new or continuing-to-learn facilitators, but she had three key recommendations on how to improve. Read these high level tips and then go check out the full presentation.
- Prepare yourself
When you’re trying to facilitate, it can be difficult to listen patiently to a colleague if your thoughts and worries are pressing on you. Staying centered so you can recognize other people and hear their responses is impossible if you’re still worrying about the fire on your other project or the three sets of meeting minutes that you need to finish before the end of the day.
If you have a complaint or gripe with someone on your call – leave it on your desk or take it for a walk and leave it outside. Do not take it onto the conference bridge with you. It will prevent you from being your best.
- Prepare your environment
If you have reserved a room, go make sure the room is set up the way you need it. If you need whiteboard markers, now is the time to make sure they will be in the room. If you need a projector, make arrangements for it to be installed and confirm that it works with your laptop (In one memorable moment, I came to a meeting with without an HDMI converter for an old-tech projector. Fortunately my technical lead is Mr Gadget – so the day was saved).
- Prepare your process
Cazaly said something very interesting that caught my attention. The more I thought abut it, the truer it seemed. She said, “Facilitators are process directors – they put a structure over the top of a meeting and run that structure”. By structure, she meant the agenda and the approach. If everyone is on the same page with:
a) The type of meeting – Are we listening to status, Do you expect people to consult with you on a topic, or is the team trying to solve a problem?
b) Your topics and
c) Approach to facilitating, then you have defined the boundaries.
After all three of these legs of your meeting are in place – you are free to focus on encouraging participation and getting to the expected outcome of your call.