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Meeting Leader

Meeting facilitators ensure participation and engagement

Meeting Leader

Leading a meeting – whether facilitating a strategic planning session, a board meeting, a leadership retreat, or other critical gathering – involves much more than just staying on topic. In fact, some times, it is about knowing when being off topic is appropriate. (See our 15 Rules of Meeting Facilitation)

What a Meeting Leader Is (or Should Be)

Meeting leaders are also known as Meeting Facilitators. A meeting leader can be involved in the meeting process long before the team members take their seats and long after they have forgotten what snacks were served during the breaks.

Here are just a few tasks a meeting leader does in order to help you ensure that your next important meeting is a success:

  • Before the Meeting
    • Partners with you for choosing the right venue, time and even type of meeting for your purposes
    • Provides an unbiased voice to help choose the right stakeholders to invite
    • Serves as a sounding board for topics to include on the agenda and to maximize the flow of subject matter
    • Recommends various approaches, activities and thought-provoking input for each agenda item
  • During the Meeting
    • Puts participants at ease with the meeting agenda
    • Prepares participants to contribute openly, creatively and respectfully
    • Prevents interpersonal problems while managing positive conflicting opinions
    • Helps break through groupthink to get at new and undeveloped opinions and insight
    • Traces the discussion patterns and guides participants from initial ideas to practical conclusions
    • Documents the progression of thought to help participants with flow of reasoning
  • After the Meeting
    • Assembles key discussion points and decisions into a well-organized, practical and easy-to-review report
    • Shares perceptions of nuanced and relevant issues from the meeting’s formal and informal conversations
    • Follows up and follows through with organizational leadership to ensure that assignments and decisions become part of the culture

What a Meeting Leader Is Not (or Shouldn’t Be)

When choosing a meeting leader, keep in mind that there are certain people you should not choose, such as your own employees or board members, your friends and close acquaintances, yourself, and those who have a close association with your organization. Be determined to avoid choosing:

  • A team member: he or she will have too much bias, be too much a part of the organizational structure and have too much respect for (or fear of) organizational authority to question it
  • A board or leadership team member: he or she will either have no opportunity to get involved creatively in the discussions or he or she may take over the agenda and push it toward his or her own goals
  • A president or executive director: no one participating, save perhaps the board chair, will question the suggestions or recommendations of the leader in charge of the meeting, effectively shutting down strategic and creative thinking
  • A last-minute appointment: ideally, the facilitator should be involved from very early on in the planning process in order to provide input, guidance and recommendations on everything mentioned in the “Before the Meeting” activities above
  • A volunteer (in most cases): most volunteer facilitators tend to see their role as the meeting emcee and feel less obligated to be involved throughout the planning and reporting processes
  • A cost-saving budget item: with the salaries, venue rental and possibly travel expenses involved, the last thing you want to do is choose an inexperienced, ill-prepared and even uncomfortable leader as the face of your meeting
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