How to Facilitate from the Participant Seat
You are attending a meeting. A REALLY BAD meeting. You look around at frustration, boredom, poor participation, and even dysfunction. But...you're just attending this meeting, not leading it! What can you do?
Quite a bit, as it turns out. Even a participant in the meeting can help improve meetings. Not just through your own conduct, either....but by actively facilitating the meeting. Here are a few ways you can help make meetings better, using the list of questions at the end to help:
Start by Asking Great Questions
Start with your facilitator skills, such as asking great questions and using reflective active listening, to get the group focused. Once you gain a role as a “focuser”, you may suggest to the leader that a recap or an agenda or ___________ (whatever you need) would help you understand the direction better.
Capture Ideas Visually
Offer to help capture and record ideas. Suggest to the leader that you can assist by writing down key points or ideas. Then grab your marker and head to the white board. Summarize what seems to be the purpose and direction of the conversation. You'll notice people start to respond to this approach and re-engage, brainstorm and reach agreements.
And that's how you become a facilitator when you started as a participant. When appropriate, you may introduce your opinions, but by standing up, recording on flip charts, and using facilitation skills to keep the discussion focused, you have effectively taken over using a consultative leadership style.
Reflective Statements: recap the conversation
What I’m hearing is
What I hear you saying is
Would it be fair to say…
Let me summarize what I heard you say
Let me rephrase
Let me make certain I understand
Let me see if I have this right….
I’m hearing a lot of frustration
Maybe we didn’t give you enough information
Mayor, if I hear what you are saying, this appears to be a staff issue. Let us work on this and we will come back with ideas.
I can see that this is important to you
A few options that I see include….
As you will recall
It seems the three options on the table are…
How would this work?
How do you see this working?
How can I help?
What information does the Council need in order to inform your decision?
Tell me more
Can you expand on that for me?
What are some of the pros and cons that you see?
Where would you like to go from here?
Am I missing anything?
Can we discuss the background of this issue more?
Why are we asking this question?
Is there any information I can provide to help with this discussion?
What do you see as the problem we are trying to solve?
Let’s offer everyone an opportunity to present their opinion
What I’d like to do is….
If I may, can we discuss what I see as the main issue that you are trying to address?
Do I understand that is a consensus of the Council?
Can you help me understand what we want to achieve?
If it’s OK with the Board, I’d like to do….
May I recommend that staff evaluate some of your options and return to you with some recommendations?
Can the Council write down what you think are the pros and cons of the issue for me?
Can someone share some examples in other cities that have worked?
What do you see as the next steps?
What outcomes are you hoping for?
How do you see this working?
As always, reach out to me with any questions or ideas - we love to share our lessons learned and successes with other facilitators!