A meeting facilitator can fill various roles, depending on the type of meeting. For instance, he might be responsible for recording minutes and ensuring that speeches, discussions, or presentations are kept to their allotted times. Some meetings may be about controversial or emotional topics, so the facilitator might act more as a meeting moderator in this case. Another typical responsibility of a meeting facilitator is to keep the dialogue relevant by pausing or changing direction when the conversation gets off track. Generally, he aids and guides the process without attempting to influence the outcome.
Organizations plan meetings for a variety of reasons. They are standard procedure for many types of businesses, while others may have meetings less frequently. The types of gatherings can range from weekly staff meetings to corporate retreats that last for several days. Meetings can take place in the office, at an off-site location, and even online. A meeting facilitator may be an employee, such as an administrative staff member, or he may be an outside consultant hired specifically to organize and conduct meetings.
Prior to the meeting, a meeting facilitator will usually prepare by identifying and researching any pertinent issues. He might create the agenda and communicate with the meeting attendees, informing them of the details and providing advance information, such as topics for discussion. Often, facilitators take care of logistical details such as setting up the meeting location with necessities such as furniture, supplies, and refreshments.
Frequently called a moderator, the meeting facilitator may have a list of issues or discussion questions. He usually starts the dialogue and may keep the time, shifting the topic to advance the discussion when necessary. Often, he does not have a stake in the outcome but acts as an impartial agent of the organization. He might participate by encouraging discussion and helping certain individuals contribute. In addition to taking personal notes, he might also use a large board or other visual aids to supplement the discussion and expand on ideas.
A meeting facilitator often acts as the meeting recorder as well. He may or may not participate in the dialogue, but his main function is to record the minutes. This is usually done by writing or typing them by hand, or by using a recording device. Later, the recorder might transcribe the notes and distribute meeting minutes or reports.
One characteristic of a good meeting facilitator is the ability to be impartial. Demonstrating attention to detail and helping participants adhere to their allotted times while making progress toward their stated goals are other beneficial skills. In general, leading effective meetings also includes the willingness of the meeting facilitator to follow up with the participants and help them take action toward any goals that they outlined.