Almost everyone I meet seems to think they know how to run a meeting. The startup founders I coach are convinced that their ability to guide a process is better than almost anyone else. The coaches I work with are no different, they feel their ability to listen and reflect makes them master facilitators. And yet consistently when I sit in on a meeting that one of my clients runs, I have to bite my tongue to hold back my suggestions and objections.
The truth is: MOST MEETINGS SUCK.
This is despite the fact that there are numerous guides, books, and outlines for how to run meetings. The real problem is that running a meeting is less about the mechanics (timing, agendas, talking sticks, conches, wands, etc) and more about the ability to be with people while also leading them with grace to a place THEY want to go.
So after running thousands of meetings and sitting through even more, here’s the skills you actually need to be successful.
You have to be present
This is the MOST FUNDAMENTAL SKILL of any facilitator. Despite how obvious it is, 90% of the problems meeting facilitator’s face come down to their inability to be present.
This takes constant work if you’re facilitating a meeting. I mean constant. Very often when I’m running a group or a strategic planning session or a mastermind group I am working constantly to really be in the room and noticing what’s going on. It’s so easy to get distracted by the agenda or by one little rabbit hole in a conversation.
To be a master facilitator you MUST learn to be present and return to presence again and again.
But you have to train your presence. The first step in this is meditation with yourself; learning to sit and be with your breath, thoughts, and feelings.
The next step is learning to meditate with other people, processes like authentic relating or conscious communication can help.
Or you can simply start by meditating during your next meeting. All you have to do is in between moments of engagement lean back (mentally or energetically) and begin to observe the room.
What’s not being said?
Who’s saying the same thing again and again?
Who’s not talking for a reason?
Where are we in the flow of this meeting?
What thoughts and feelings keep occurring to me?
By returning to presence with each person as they speak as well as the group as a whole, often where to go next will be incredibly apparent.
This takes practice but the simple action of stepping back more often will immediately improve your facilitation skills. Even if you’re not running the meeting.