Staff gathering for a meeting
Common Staff Meeting Challenges and Facilitation Techniques to Overcome Them

Effective meetings play a pivotal role in creating spaces for collaboration, growth, and meaningful connection. Whether you’re looking to enhance participant engagement, create a more productive environment, or achieve your meeting objectives seamlessly, these facilitation techniques are tailored to elevate your skills in steering meetings with a focus on SEL principles.

How Can I Create a Safe Space for Discussing Sensitive Topics?

Agree on ground rules to guide group interactions. Having ground rules can foster a respectful environment that encourages participation or invites participants to voice disagreements constructively.
Tip: Some examples of ground rules include: “Consider and respect others’ opinions,” and, “Give everyone an opportunity to speak.” You might even agree on signals participants can use when they have something they’d like to add without disrupting the person speaking.

How Do I Encourage or Balance Participation?

No matter what types of personalities make up your team, here are some techniques for balancing participation in staff meetings:
  • Go around the table. This technique is ideal for encouraging participation from quiet attendees—or preventing a single attendee from dominating the conversation. After asking the group a question, collect responses by going around the table and having every participant share something.

  • Ask open-ended questions. Use open-ended questions to either increase or balance participation. For example, you could ask: “What else?” or “What do you think?” or “Who else has something to add?” or “What are your thoughts from X’s perspective?”

  • Break into groups. Consider assigning pairs or small “breakout” groups to give participants time to work through more involved prompts or activities. Smaller groups are easier to participate in and can give participants space, time, and support for developing their ideas.

What Should I Do If the Meeting Grows Stagnant?

If staff get stuck talking in circles without committing to specific decisions, solutions, or plans, you need to intervene. If that happens, you might:
  • Encourage decision-making with visual aids. Use visual aids such as whiteboards or flip charts for capturing ideas, summarizing outcomes, or bringing closure to decisions or action items. Visual aids can help you keep the group aligned and signal when to move to the next agenda item.
  • Reframe and refocus. Another technique is to reframe and refocus the conversation with a specific prompt, such as, “What are the next steps?” “Where did we land?” “How can we keep moving forward?” Or, “What’s our final decision here?”
  • Circle back. There will always be another staff meeting in the future. Sometimes taking a step back from something can help spark more ideas around it. If the objective of the meeting was not accomplished, it’s ok to circle back to it next time and provide some take-aways for staff members to come back to the next meeting with.

Tip: If a team member makes a point that isn’t relevant to the issue at hand, acknowledge and record it, then set it aside for now. You might say, “That’s a good point, but I’m not sure it’s relevant to the objectives of this meeting. Let’s table it for another time.” You aren’t ignoring the participants’ ideas, but you’re also staying on track and moving forward.

What’s the Best Way to Solicit Ideas From Staff?

Quickly generate ideas with a group brainstorm. Give the group a prompt and have them shout out ideas as fast as possible. Set the expectation that no idea is a bad idea in a brainstorm. Record ideas where everyone in the group can see them.
Remember, as educators and youth workers, your role is key in shaping positive environments. Working together and having group decisions made will help your team to feel empowered, have buy-in, and grow in their role. Embrace these techniques to navigate challenges, foster connections, and achieve meeting objectives effectively. Here’s to more impactful meetings ahead!

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