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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.'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….

Empathizing Statements

I’m hearing a lot of frustration

Maybe we didn’t give you enough information

Definitive Statements

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….

Reminding Statements

As you will recall

It seems the three options on the table are…

Clarifying Questions

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?

Guiding Statements

Let’s offer everyone an opportunity to present their opinion

What I’d like to do is….

How about….

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?

Permission Statements

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!




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