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How to facilitate effective meetings

Make your retreat and ongoing meetings more effective with these tips and techniques.

These tips and resources are also included in the retreat facilitator guide.

Set ground rules for communication

Consider establishing rules for respectful communication at the beginning of the meeting, such as:

  • Allow only one person to speak at once
  • Set time limits for comments
  • Assume the best intent
  • Ask questions to facilitate or improve understanding
  • Respect differences of opinion

Determine how the group will make decisions

Establish a standard voting process in order to make group decision-making more productive.

Thumb voting

  • Thumbs up to signal they are in favor of the decision
  • Thumbs to the side to signal that the decision is satisfactory
  • Thumbs down to signal that they are not in favor of the decision

Majority voting

The facilitator asks members to vote yes or no, and the majority vote becomes the decision of the group. You can vote:

  • Verbally
  • With a show of hands
  • On slips of paper

Voting plus leadership deliberation

The facilitator asks members to vote, and then network leadership takes the results, deliberates, and brings a final decision back to the group at the next meeting.

Considering "no" votes

If many members vote thumbs down or "no" on a decision, consider asking what changes would make the decision more satisfactory and then adapting the proposed decision to reflect their feedback.

Other meeting facilitation tips

  • Recruit a volunteer to act as timekeeper to help the group stay on track
  • Stay focused on the purpose and topics of each meeting
  • Be clear about the time available for each topic and move on if discussion becomes repetitive
  • If one member is taking up a large amount of speaking time, consider interrupting them politely and speaking to them outside of the meeting to clarify their goals and interests