Group Facilitation Nuts and Bolts

1. Check the Room Set-Up

  • Arrive early to the meeting location to make sure that signs to the meeting room are posted, the lights are on, and the coffee is percolating etc. Be there to make the first to arrive feel welcome.
  • Unless you need auditorium style for a speaker presentation, try to have everyone sitting close (for hearing) and facing each other. This keeps the attention focused on the meeting.
  • Check windows and lights: is the room bright enough? Are people able to sit with their backs to glare-producing light sources/windows?

2. Refreshments

  • Serving food and drink promotes a social atmosphere. Try to have the table cloth contrast with the dishes. Group members may wish to serve themselves independently on the way in but be prepared to offer some assistance.

3. Before the Meeting

  • Designate “greeters” to welcome returning members but more importantly to welcome new ones
  • Make new members feel welcome—assign a buddy to show them where to sit, show them where the refreshments are, and introduce them to other group members. Be sure to take down their name and contact information to encourage them to come back with a reminder call for the next meeting.
  • Keep an attendance list: you will be able to identify active members who are willing to help out as well as lapsed members who may need some extra support.

4. Starting the Meeting

  • Start on-time as much as possible. A dependable start time encourages punctual group members.
  • Get the group’s attention first. Say “hello” and “welcome” but then wait to continue only after the room is quiet and you are sure you have everyone’s attention. It may take a moment for people to finish their conversation with their partner. Sharing information before you have everyone’s attention means that not everyone will hear it and others will be annoyed that they can’t hear YOU.
  • Consider stating agreed upon group communication practices: everyone gets a turn, keep discussion on topic, etc.

5. Keeping It Moving

  • As a leader, the group expects and permits you to lead and to make the decisions and take the actions that keep the group running smoothly and pleasantly for everyone.
  • Consider reading out an agenda each meeting or having a predictable sequence of events. This especially helps new group members feel secure and able to anticipate what will happen next.
  • Give everyone a chance to speak, keep the discussion on topic, and do not let one person dominate:

“I’m sorry to interrupt but we have to give the next person some time to share their comments”

“Perhaps we could continue this discussion after the meeting/another time”

“Jean, we haven’t heard from you tonight. Would you like to share anything?”

6. Closing the Meeting

  • Give the meeting a definite end so that those people who want to leave can feel able to do so.
  • State the date and time of the next meeting with the topic of discussion or speaker to stimulate interest in coming back.
  • If your budget allows, consider printing up a large print reminder of the date and time of the next meeting for people to post on their fridge.
  • “Thank you for coming today. We’ll see you next month. There are still refreshments for anyone who would like to stay”

7. Before the Next Meeting

  • Confirm your speaker
  • Do reminder calls one week before your next meeting
  • Do any additional marketing