Be the facilitator meeting culture needs

Meetings are important. They are the yellow brick road to achievement; vital to company success. We need them. Yet, so many of us dread them. And for good reason. Most meetings are widely ineffective. One-third of the 11 million meetings that take place in the U.S. daily are unproductive, according to Business Insider. That translates to an estimated annual loss of $37 billion in unproductive meetings. That is insanity; insanity that can be prevented. How? We must learn how to run effective meetings. 

How are your meetings going? Take a close look.  Are you getting the most out of them? Is there room for improvement? Do you flinch at the word “meetings” itself…

Making Meetings Matter

We’ve heard from fellow makers–all who build things, from prototypes to cultures–that they don’t like meetings because they don’t see them as useful. From their perspective, it’s time they could otherwise be creating. That’s an understandable viewpoint when meetings are bad. Meaningless meetings are time (and money) sucks. They’re also stifling to productivity, company culture, and overall company success. But when meetings are done right, they can take your business to the next level.

What does this look like? Doing the work in the meetings, not after. This is one of our meeting mantras at Voltage Control. It redefines the common perception of meetings altogether. Instead of actionless discussions, we view meetings as collaborative group work sessions, where there is a clear purpose, inclusivity, high engagement, productivity, and tangible outcomes.

Too many meetings are spent talking about what needs to be done instead of actually doing it.

The following are ways to help you run effective meetings, every time: 

1. Identify a clear purpose

You must have an identified, tangible purpose to call your team together if you want it to be productive, something to work toward. Another one of our meeting mantras is “no prototype, no meeting.” That means if there is not a clear and tangible “prototype” or idea to flush out and explore, then there is no reason to have a meeting in the first place.

A prototype can take many forms. Some examples are a storyboard, mood board, written brief, sample pitch of an idea, or a coding. The structure of a prototype sets your team up to do the work in the meeting. Your team is able to discuss it and collectively work on it DURING the meeting instead of saving the to-dos for when people return to their own work zones. 

2. Create an effective agenda

Preparation is key to running a successful meeting. Once you have identified your meeting objective, create and share a meeting agenda of what needs to be discussed to achieve that goal. A meeting agenda serves as an outline of the essential topics to address. What will be talked through with your team and for how long? Intentionally construct the agenda–include only what is crucial and pertains to the objective–then send it to all attendees ahead of time so they know what to expect and are on the same page. Once you’re in the meeting, stick to the schedule. Respect everyone’s time; stay on track.

For more about how to write an effective meeting agenda, glance over here

3. Encourage connection

Team connection is critical to team collaboration; the more connected your team feels, the better they will perform individually and as a unit. It’s important to keep in mind that not all team members are always in the same mental space when they walk (or Zoom) into a meeting. This can significantly affect the meeting’s overall flow and success, especially when the meeting immediately dives into the topics at hand.

It is extremely helpful to the group dynamic to establish an even playing field for attendees. Reserve the first part of the meeting for connection. This can be a soft check-in with attendees, posing an insightful or interesting question to get people talking, or in the form of an icebreaker or energizer to help spark creativity (to name a few). Once the meeting is underway, encourage equal participation from all attendees. Everyone wants to feel included, and more heads are better than one when it comes to ideation and creative problem-solving. Diverse perspectives lead to impactful results. 

4. Debrief, debrief, debrief

Allot time at the end of the meeting to debrief with the group. Remind team members of the major takeaways to help with retention and successfully transition them to pursue next steps. Summarize the discussed topics, obtained information, and the decisions or insights reached. Then, divvy out the tasks that need to be done to bring the discussed idea(s) to life, including when they must be completed by, and by whom. This is also part of doing the work in the meeting. Assign tasks to appropriate parties, communicate clear deadlines, then release everyone to tackle their responsibilities.

Our bar for meetings has been set very low. There is great potential to make meetings exceptional. We can tap into it and run more effective meetings by sharpening our facilitation skills.

Good Meetings Require Good Facilitators

If your meetings lack organization, participant engagement, and diverse outcomes, expert facilitation can help. Here’s the thing: technically, anyone who runs a meeting–whether good or bad–is a facilitator. By definition, a facilitator is someone who plans, designs, and leads a meeting. If you’re running a meeting, you’re facilitating. So how do you ensure you are facilitating meetings effectively? 

A facilitator’s job is to actively guide teams through the decision-making process to reach goals and desired outcomes. They are unbiased leaders removed from emotion about office politics, which allows them to objectively lead with a clear vision of the sought after goal. Their purpose is to ensure that a team meets its objectives, has fruitful conversations, and that the group gets what they need and want from the gathering. A good facilitator has the following qualities:

  • Confidence: Able to control the room and keep participants interested and engaged.
  • Humility: Knows the meeting is not about them and relishes that fact.
  • Flexibility: Comfortable course-correcting during the meeting if things change, participants need something different, or the agenda needs to be amended on the fly.
  • Curiosity: Interested in their team’s/client’s problems, insight, and challenges and is excited to learn more about them.

Facilitation is an art. Therefore, it is a continuous practice. That’s why we host a free weekly community facilitation practice (currently virtually) focused on helping facilitators hone their craft to help improve the quality of meetings. Join us to practice your facilitation approach, learn new skills, and connect with and learn from fellow facilitators. Let’s all be our best as facilitators so we can help make meetings exceptional.

Need an expert facilitator for your next meeting, gathering or workshop? Let’s talk.

Voltage Control facilitates events of all kinds, including design thinking workshops, innovation sessions, and Design Sprints. Please reach out to us at if you want to talk or for a consultation.