26 Simple Ways to Make Your Meetings More Focused (and Awesome!)

Nothing feels like a bigger waste of time than unproductive meetings—and when you’re the facilitator, it’s demoralizing to feel like you’ve lost control. Poor planning and facilitation not only wastes time, it even prevents the people you need from attending and participating in your meetings. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are 26 ways to get wayward meetings focused and back on track:

  1. Get meetings started. “Let’s review the agenda, get team assignments and add or delete any items we need to.”
  2. Encourage communication and involvement of all members. “Let’s go around the room and get everyone’s opinion about ….”
  3. Ask team members for opinions and feelings to encourage discussion. “Do you agree with …?” “What is your reaction to …?”
  4. Ask for a summary of the discussion. “A lot of good ideas have been presented in the last half hour. Will someone summarize the major points before we go on?”
  5. Paraphrase what someone has said to help members understand each other. “I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying that …?”
  6. Ask for specific examples to improve understanding. “Will you give some examples of what you mean?”
  7. Clarify assumptions. “Your proposal assumes that unless we use threats, they won’t cooperate. Is that right?”
  8. Ask for explanation in order to eliminate confusion and repetition. “The examples you gave apply to … Do they also apply to …?”
  9. Probe an idea in greater depth. “What are some other ways to approach this problem?”
  10. Suggest a break or rest. “We have been working on the problem for about an hour. I suggest we take a 10-minute break.”
  11. Move the team toward action. “What would you do first?” “How would you suggest we proceed on this?”
  12. Poll members. “How does everybody feel about this?” “How many believe this is an idea worth pursuing?”
  13. Encourage open-mindedness. “I don’t think you heard what he was trying to say. It might help if you tell us what you heard him say before you state your objections.”
  14. Recommend a process. “I suggest we go around the table to see how everyone feels about this issue.”
  15. Step out of the facilitator role. “I’d like to make a comment—would someone serve as facilitator for a few minutes so I can state my opinion?”
  16. Stop discussion to focus on team feelings. “Let’s take a break from the task for a few minutes and have each of us talk about what he or she is feeling right now.”
  17. Encourage greater participation. “Let’s give him a chance to tell it the way he sees it.” “I believe you’ve had a chance to speak on this topic already. Some others need a turn.”
  18. Reflect for the team what someone else is feeling. “I get the impression that you are not satisfied with my answer. Is that right?” “It sounds to me as if ….”
  19. Get back on track. “I think we’ve lost our focus.”
  20. Surface differences of opinion. “You haven’t said so, but it’s clear to me that you don’t agree. Is that right?”
  21. Check team progress. “Are we asking the right question?” “Are these the most important goals?”
  22. Encourage new thinking. “Why don’t you take the role of the customer for a few minutes? Now, as a customer, how would you react to this proposal?”
  23. Explore potential results. “If we did it this way, what is the worst thing that could happen?” “If it doesn’t work, what have we lost?”
  24. Test for consensus of the team. “Can we identify any areas we still disagree on?” “It seems that we have come to agreement on this issue. Does everyone accept the idea that …?”
  25. Handle consensus blockers. “We would like to hear your reasons for blocking the decision. Would you please explain?”
  26. Move toward decision. “We have considered every possibility; now we must choose from these three alternatives.”

Poorly managed meetings are a drag and are a real drain on productivity and morale. But handled correctly, your meetings can promote communication, generate new ideas, foster morale, create goals, build teams and so much more!

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