Planning a Group Meeting

CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EFFECTIVE FACILITATOR: As chairperson, focus on the meeting's goals and objectives throughout the meeting. Most everything you say should serve that purpose. A written agenda and visual aids serve as reference points and help to reinforce your purpose. You will make your greatest contribution by asking questions. Questions help to stimulate thinking, navigate the direction of the discussion, and sidetrack irrelevant issues. Specific questions might be: "Where would that idea lead - What are the consequences?" and "Is this line of discussion consistent with our objectives?"

IMPORTANT FACTORS IN PLANNING MEETINGS--VISUAL AIDS: Visual aids, such as flipcharts and transparencies help you establish a context for the meeting and have a longer lasting effect that just oral presentation. When you rely solely on oral communication, it is estimated that 80 percent of a message is often misinterpreted or forgotten entirely soon after its conclusion.

IMPORTANT FACTORS IN PLANNING A MEETING--SEATING: Seating arrangements affect the tone and participation in meetings. The chairperson should be in a central position to facilitate governance of the meeting most effectively. In small meetings the manager should sit at the head of the table, and in meetings with 12 or more participants, in the center on the side. Seating around a rectangular or round table, or semi-circle arrangement, where all participants can have eye contact is generally best. For problem-solving and idea generating meetings, this seating arrangement promotes a team-like atmosphere.

IMPORTANT FACTORS IN PLANNING A MEETING--ENVIRONMENT: The physical environment of a meeting weighs heavy on its outcome. Plan ahead to make this impact positive. For example, try to locate the meeting in a well-ventilated room, where distractions and interruptions are minimal and lighting and room temperature are comfortable. Use a wide table and place it in a central location so participants won't be cramped or tense.

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