There is lots of enthusiasm and passion in the world of nonprofits and charitable organizations. Harnessing that passion and purpose in a meeting can be a challenge unless there is a structure that helps move everyone towards more efficient decision making. In the earlier post, How To Make Meetings Magic, the focus was on using techniques that help engage and energize the participants. But now, that engagement, when not properly directed, can create chaotic meetings where decisions can’t be made and further action can’t be taken. By applying a few simple meeting facilitation techniques, meetings can be enormously productive and lead to results that help your organization move forward and will get people to feel so positive that they will want to come back for more meetings in the future. That's pretty magic! Yay!
Separate into breakouts
Often topics become unwieldy when a group is too large, there is too much information to cover; some people are more interested in one topic than the others. Meetings are more productive when they are intimate as everyone gets a better chance to be heard and therefore has more opportunity to be involved. Smaller breakout groups can generate a brief report of their discussion and bring it back to bigger group to finalize a decision.
Generate creative problem solving and ideas
Sometimes decisions can't be reached simply because there are not enough good ideas out there to solve the problem! Brainstorming is a very effective meeting technique that has been adopted by many groups to stimulate creative problem solving. Brainstorming is a form of free flow thinking without discussion or criticism. Often brainstorming is used in conjunction with mind-mapping which helps links the ideas into themes. This method allows everyone to feel that they have made a contribution to the problem solving. After brainstorming, participants can discuss the pros and cons of each idea, prioritize and come up with a final list of conclusions or action items.
Decide on how to decide
If there are legal protocols that must be followed, such a motions and voting, then please do not disregard them. When decisions need to be made that require some type of agreement, use a method that is the most efficient and seems the most fair to everyone involved. There are several decision making methods to choose from: majority or percentage votes, decision made by experts, decision made by authority after group discussion, decision by averaging individual opinions, several different structures of consensus. When people feel satisfied that the process was fair, they are more satisfied with the outcome.
People are more interested in participating when they will feel that their input has been valued. If time permits, solicit feedback for how the meeting went and write it on a flipchart for everyone to see. Or, to save time, hand out feedback forms at the end of the meeting. Be sure to type up the results of the feedback and send them to everyone after the meeting along with any minutes that may have been taken.
Reward and motivate
Feed the participants, thank them for their comments, applaud their ideas, and give them mementos to take away (like the plants on the tables). Don’t forget to send everyone thank you emails and notes.
When sending everyone a report of the meeting includes mentions of everyone’s positive contribution. Public acknowledgment is one of the best rewards possible.
Since I first started working on these meeting facilitation techniques, I have noticed how many of them are beeing used in the meetings that have been well run. That wonderful feeling of "Yay" at the end of a meeting, contributes to a lot of satisfaction to being part of that group and organization.