Keeping meetings on track: three tips from professional facilitators

Have you ever felt frustrated in a meeting because the conversation was circling, backtracking or just getting off topic? By mastering three key facilitation skills, you need never feel that way again. Here are some quick tips on keeping discussions results-driven and productive by using those skills.

Defining and focussing on your meeting outcome

Great meetings have a clear purpose. They are centered around achieving well defined outcomes. To achieve this in your meetings, write down your meeting outcome before sending out meeting invitations. Try using the formula ‘By the end of this meeting, we will _____________’ This makes your outcome statement action-focussed, which means it will help everyone understand what they are meant to do in the meeting.

At the start of your meeing, write the meeting outcome in the middle of a whiteboard of flipchart. Place this directly in front of meeting participants. Then point to the outcome whenever conversation digresses from your core topic. This redirects energy and attention during the meeting.

Breaking into small groups

Some people don’t talk up in large groups. But they still have lots to contribute! Avoid missing out on their ideas by periodically breaking into pairs or triads. Instruct these smaller groups to discuss a specific topic or question and record key responses on post-it notes. Allow five to ten minutes for conversation. Then collect up the post-it notes and collate them to draw out key themes or responses. This technique generates far more input than spending the same time in a larger group with only a few people contributing.


It’s easy to get lost during discussions of complex or contentious issues. Prevent this happening in YOUR meetings by periodically summarising key points and decisions. Not only does this remind people of what had been agreed, it also helps the minute taker keep an accurate record of what has been discussed.

If you want to stand out as an effective leader, try using these three tips in all of your meetings. You’ll find that small behavioural changes can reap huge results. For more tips on becoming an effective communicator, book a communication skills coaching program with Eleanor Shakiba now.

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