How to Facilitate a Meeting

Blog cover How to Facilitate a Meeting

We're poking fun at scary meetings. As an extra treat, we’re sharing some tricks of the trade on how to facilitate a meeting that drives greater value for participants.  As we're seeing a shift in how we meet, and more reliance on digital tools for meetings, let's hope that bad meetings can finally rest in peace.


The Scary Facts about Meetings

Much can be said about the typical meeting, and much of it isn’t good.

Here’s a question for you: what’s the value of a meeting?

Meetings are meant to drive productivity in the workplace. There’s a lot of value in getting people together, focused on the same thing and thinking through issues to keep work moving forward and achieve the goals and objectives of the organization.

The challenge is, most meetings are scheduled without much thought. They become placeholders in your calendar with an assumed obligation to show up, often without clarity of what’s expected of you and what’s going to happen.

Doing a little research on the web, I came across some scary facts about unproductive meetings. Not surprisingly, they waste money and suck up time.  Unproductive meetings are estimated to cost more than $37M USD per year. While most people I know see time as a scarce resource, they keep agreeing to attend meetings that are clearly wasting their time.

These facts are positively ghoulish:

  • About 15% of an organization’s collective time is allocated to meetings
  • Middle managers spend 35% of their time in meetings
  • Senior managers spend 50% of their time in meetings and consider 69% of meetings to be failures
  • Generally, we spend 4 hours a week – that’s 10% of the average work week – preparing for status update meetings, which then aren’t necessarily productive!

How to Facilitate a Meeting

In our experience, there are three things that contribute to unproductive meetings:

  1. A lack of planning and structure to get the right people focused on the right things and making good use of time
  2. People showing up and not being present (i.e., multi-tasking and allowing distractions)
  3. Using meeting technologies and approaches that impede engagement and efficiency.

So, we offer three things you can do to facilitate a better meeting. 

Plan for Productivity

Most meetings are scheduled without much thought to what needs to be accomplished and who really needs to be there, and the kind of thinking or sharing that needs to be accomplished.  

What needs to happen in your meeting?  Are you sharing information? Do you need a creative discussion where people are expected to come up with ideas or help to solve a problem creatively?  Or, is this a meeting where decisions are going to need to be made?

We've got two tricks for you. A meeting logistics worksheet and a sample meeting agenda for a team meeting.  These will help you plan and structure your meeting and make sure the right people come to the table. 

Download our Meeting Logistics Worksheet

Download our Team Meeting Agenda Template


Be Present and Accountable

Here’s the trick. Participants share a responsibility for making meetings productive. Participants need to understand their reason for being at the meeting; at a minimum, it’s to contribute value and receive value. You can’t contribute or receive value if your head is in your device, if you’re thinking about your last or next meeting, or if you’re multi-tasking.

Make sure everyone understands their role and responsibilities to the meeting, and set ground rules for participation. And, unless you’re working in a life-or-death environment, it’s likely that everyone can move away from their devices for the duration of the meeting.  It’s okay to ask people to put them away, place them on silent and give the meeting participants respectful attention.

I like to use three roles in meetings. 

  • Facilitator - the person responsible for leading the group through the meeting process;
  • Client - the person who is responsible and accountable for the work of the team. This is the person who holds decision making authority in the meeting. 
  • Resource Group - the people invited to participate and contribute thinking. These people can inform decisions, but don't make them. 

Make it Easy to Engage

We’ve all been at them – dreadful meetings that use teleconferencing.

Here’s the trick: video conferencing.

It’s available to everyone with an internet connection and many options are free.  A recent Harvard Business Review article explains how video conferencing makes team meetings all the more productive.  If you’ve got team members who need to dial in, make sure it’s through a video conferencing tool. When you can see the whites of their eyes, remote participants engage more.

If you’re stuck with teleconferencing, as the meeting facilitator you need to actively be checking in with connected participants to make sure they are able to contribute to the meeting.  Here’s a trick I use: I make a list of everyone who’s on the call. At the start of the meeting, I tell everyone I will be circling through them for input at regular intervals. This keeps people on their toes and makes sure their voices get a place in the meeting.

Meetings that need input from remote participants need more than video conferencing. If your meeting includes creative discussion, new approaches are required to capture ideas and insights.

You'll find more tricks to facilitate a meeting in this blog -  How to collaborate effectively if your team is remote.

If you're running a meeting where you need to facilitate a large group of people and you need high participation, here's another trick - it's a digital facilitation tool called Stormz. We've helped many clients integrate its use in team meetings and special meetings for creative problem solving, community consultation and other meetings. A cloud-based application, Stormz allows everyone to contribute ideas and insights into specific topics without the need for Post-it® Notes.  The data collected is available in real-time to everyone in the meeting and can immediately be reported on after the meeting with the click of a button.

Meetings don’t need to be scary. Our clients tell us we help them make meetings a real treat.

We can help you do that too. So, if you:

  • Need help designing or facilitating a regular team meeting
  • Need a strategic planning facilitator
  • Want to engage stakeholders in strategic planning, problem-solving, decision-making, project management, or work planning
  • Need a facilitator for your next executive retreat, all-staff, town hall or community meeting 

Schedule a consultation call 


About BridgePoint Effect

Doing business in an evolving, dynamic environment brings unique, never-before-seen challenges for business leaders.

We have a framework that helps leaders and their teams to know what to do when they don't know what to do. We provide tools, training and meeting facilitation services so they collaborate to achieve more than they ever thought possible. 

A boutique consulting firm located in Toronto, Canada and doing business globally, BridgePoint Effect provides innovation and strategy consulting that helps teams win. 

Our services are delivered at your-site, our-site, virtually and in blended on-site and virtual formats. 


Written by Janice Francisco, CEO, Principal Consultant, Facilitator and Coach, BridgePoint Effect

With inspiration from:

Herold, C. (2016). Meetings suck. Turning one of the most loathed elements of your business into one of the most valuable.

Dockweiller, Scott. How Much Time Do We Spend in Meetings? Hint: It's Scary. The Daily Muse,

Image credit - a special thank you to Mike Werner from Mike Werner Illustration



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