ings continually get bogged down, try posting time limits right on the agenda. This will
help to keep you on track. Also note on the agenda who will be speaking so no one
will be caught off-guard. For example: “Decoration Committee Update—Jordan—
In planning your agenda, you can also determine any supplies you will need and who
is responsible for them. Determine if you need things like audiovisual equipment, art
supplies, or paper. Nametags are often helpful, especially at the beginning of the year.
Post the agenda in a conspicuous, predetermined location or hand copies out to par-
ticipants ahead of time. Make sure your facilitator is familiar with the agenda well be-
fore the meeting starts. If you can do nothing else, convince your officers, to stick to
the agenda—assuming of course it’s well-planned. The only thing worse than a long
meeting, is a long unproductive meeting. In most cases, an unproductive meeting can
be avoided by simply sticking to the agenda. That said, a good facilitator should know
the group well enough to knowwhen it might be productive to deviate slightly. He or
she should be able to sense fatigue or potential conflicts and be able to keep the
group moving along.
To lessen conflict and increase camaraderie, some groups conduct a short icebreaker
at the start of the meeting. Here are some easy ideas:
Have students partner up and interview each other to learn “Five Fast Facts.” Have
the partners share.
Post a quotation on the board when members arrive. Ask students to guess who
said the quote.
Pass out brainteasers for members to work on as everyone gets settled. Offer a
small prize for whoever figures it out first.
Some groups ask a different member to be responsible for each meeting’s ice-
breaker. Remember to keep the icebreakers short and simple—you don’t want to
get bogged down before you even start.
Ideally, every meeting would be filled with excited participants just bursting to share
their well-reasoned and insightful opinions. The real world, as most advisers know,
often presents a far different picture. That’s where a good facilitator comes in, and
good facilitators are made, not born. Set up sessions at the beginning of the year to
teach your officers some facilitation skills.
Right off the bat, they should know a good meeting requires input from its participants
and a good facilitator has the ability to get input in a variety of different ways. Don’t
limit yourselves to asking participants to raise their hands in response to a question.
That may work for some people and in some settings, but it shouldn’t be a one-size-
fits-all technique. Have students write down responses or work in small groups to dis-
cuss or propose ideas. Both ways help get input from students who may be too shy or
intimidated to speak in front of a large group.
A good facilitator keeps his/her finger on the pulse of the group. One way to check the
group’s feeling is to use a game called Gunny Sacking. Pass out small slips of paper
and ask participants to fill in the blank in the statement: “Right now I feel___.” Have
them toss their responses in a hat and then have each one pull out someone else’s re-
sponse. Quickly go around the room, having participants read aloud one another’s re-
sponses. If you hear responses like “bored,” “tired,” or “frustrated,” you’ll know it’s
time to redirect quickly.
You can ward off mounting frustration and fatigue by scheduling short breaks, Set a
time limit, however, and stick to it. Try to minimize disruptions; your officers should
have a plan of how to deal with disruptions before they happen. No one is advocating
instituting a dictatorial regime, but for anything to get accomplished, you need as few
disruptions as possible. Encourage your leaders to stimulate discussion and don’t let
the same few upperclassmen dominate. Try to get your freshmen involved as well.
Urge them to stick to concrete issues. Ban phrases like “I heard that someone said…”
Encourage them to comment on what they know for sure, no rumors or hearsay.
Wrapping Up theMeeting
Every good performer knows how to end the show on a high note. They don’t drone on
and on until the audience is half asleep, they always leave the audience wanting a lit-
tle bit more. Ending a meeting is essentially no different. Make sure your facilitators
know how to end the meeting so everyone can leave feeling their valuable time was
used productively. The facilitator should prepare a conclusion plan before the meeting,
especially if you anticipate a conflict-ridden meeting.
Before adjourning, review any decisions you made, even the most basic ones, “So we
decided our Homecoming theme will be Back in Black and the main colors will be
black and silver.” This accomplishes two goals: It gives everyone one more chance to
hear the information and it reminds them that something important did take place.
Your conclusion plan should also include a big thanks to participants. Some groups
give Kudos candy bars at the end to anyone who has been particularly helpful. Always
announce your next meeting time and date and ask that participants write this infor-
Just as it is in the activity planning process, evaluation is an important part of the
meeting planning process. For the first fewmeetings of the year, consider having a
short debriefing session with your officers or facilitators after the meetings. Ask them
how the meeting went and offer your observations. Help them process any conflict or
disagreement so they don’t leave angry or frustrated. Evaluation doesn’t have to occur
after every meeting, but try to conduct a meeting evaluation at least two or three
times a semester. Include your members as well as your facilitators and you’ll get a
better sense of how you are doing. Always keep yourselves open to new ideas. Poll
the members to their ideas as to how to improve meetings. Having members partici-
pate in the evaluation process helps avoid those “parking lot meetings,” you know,
the ones where everyone meets in the parking lot after the real meeting adjourns to
discuss who said what about whom. They can really be destructive to morale and
If you think about it, in the real world many people spend much of their lives in meet-
ings. Learning effective facilitation skills can help them not only in their college career,
but just might give them a leg up in the future job market.
Ameeting happens any time two or more people get together to gather or give infor-
mation, to express ideas, to persuade others, to plan action, to solve problems, to
make decisions…whenever people gather to simply understand themselves and the
To guarantee a fantastic meeting, leaders need to be certain that people are prepared
to participate, that the discussion is interesting, that people feel comfortable, and that
the group can work efficiently in the time available. Then, once a group determines a