Many coral reef managers and practitioners attend and lead meetings as part of their daily or weekly tasks. Most managers need good facilitation skills to be effective as they often guide collaborative decision-making processes for resource management and seek input from a variety of stakeholders.
A facilitator supports the meeting process by keeping the group on track to produce the desired objectives. Ideally, a facilitator is neutral towards the outcome of the meeting. ref The facilitator’s job is to focus on effective processes (meeting dynamics), allowing the participants to focus on the content or the substance of their work together.
When complete neutrality is needed, or when dealing with contentious issues, the group will benefit by using a facilitator from outside the organization or office. Using a professional facilitator is strongly encouraged when the meeting will have more than 40 participants.
Coral reef managers often hold meetings or workshops to:
- Solve problems
- Identify shared priorities
- Develop or update management plans
- Create buy-in
- Make decisions
- Share information
- Plan work
- Learn from one another
A common misconception is that getting all the experts or stakeholders together in the same room will automatically produce the intended results. This is often not the case. Most meetings or workshops require facilitation to achieve desired results. A well-facilitated meeting is both more efficient and more effective.
How to Plan Effective Meetings
The following steps may be followed to plan a productive meeting or workshop. For more details on each step, see Introduction to Planning a Productive Meeting or Workshop (pdf, 135k).
- Define the meeting purpose and objectives - Ask, why are we having this meeting?
- Create a participant list - For a meeting to be truly successful, the right people need to participate.
- Establish roles - Determine the roles people will play at the meeting.
- Develop the agenda - The agenda provides the focusing framework for the meeting, puts tasks in a logical order and timeframe, and offers an outline for writing the summary at the meeting’s conclusion.
- Identify background materials - Provide the participants with the information needed to meaningfully participate in the meeting.
- Plan the meeting space - An important part of meeting dynamics is the meeting environment.
Executing Effective Meetings and Facilitation Techniques
Learning how to facilitate groups effectively takes practice. It requires understanding group interactions, managing time, using techniques to assist groups in accomplishing their objectives, and intervening effectively when a person’s behavior is disruptive to the meeting.
- Executing Effective Meetings provides guidance on how to run a productive meeting including details on setting meeting expectations, managing time, establishing ground rules and getting participant feedback.
- Facilitation Techniques provides detailed information on commonly used facilitation methods and tips for facilitating webinars and video conferences.