Kill Bad Meetings



An extract from “Kill Bad Meetings- cut 50% of your meetings to transform your culture, improve collaboration and accelerate decisions” by Kevan Hall and Alan Hall, published by NB books

Facilitation Tips

Our favorite definition of facilitation is “any activity that makes tasks easy for others.”

We prefer to use the title facilitator, rather than chairperson or meeting organizer. The title chairperson is used to describe a person who is in charge. The organizer, to me, is the person who books the room. The facilitator is the person who makes the meeting really work.

The facilitator’s role is to lead the group to deliver the planned outcome in the easiest and most effective way possible. Facilitation is a fundamental management skill. If you cannot lead a group to reach an outcome effectively, how can you be a successful manager.

Your OPPT planning has given you several of the tools you need to facilitate effectively.

Being explicit about outcomes and process

The first thing the facilitator should do is introduce each meeting topic using the information from their meeting design.

  • What Outcome do we need from this topic?
  • What Process will we use to get there?
  • How do we expect people to Participate in the process?

Including, if appropriate, what decision process will we use?

  • How much Time should we give to this?
  • It can also be helpful to specify roles and rules.
  • Roles: are there specific roles that need to be carried out

during the meeting; who will take any notes or record actions, who owns any outcomes, who will lead the discussion?

  • Rules: are there any guidelines on participation for the conduct of the meeting; for example, will you ask people to turn off mobile phones and avoid multitasking?

Meeting hopes and fears exercise

To develop your own meeting rules, at the beginning of your next meeting ask participants to reflect on previous meetings they have attended. Ask them to discuss what made particularly good meetings and what made terrible ones.

Ask them to discuss their answers and create a flipchart with two columns, one of their hopes for this meeting (what would make this meeting great – things to aspire to) and the other column for their fears (what would make this meeting terrible – things to avoid).

Lead a short discussion on what you can do as a facilitator and what they can do as participants to deliver the hopes and prevent the fears. Out of this discussion you will come up with some practical guidelines for preventing some of the common problems with meetings in your organization.

During the meeting, you can display these rules on the wall and refer to them as the meeting progresses. As the rules have been set by the group themselves, they are much more likely to be followed.

If at any point people are not following the rules, then the facilitator can simply point out that these are their rules and ask them how they can resume in a more positive way.

Managing time and focus

It is also the facilitator’s role (unless you have a dedicated time- keeper) to keep focus on time and make sure we are covering the planned agenda.

A survey by Atlassian software in the USA found only 53 percent of scheduled meeting time is spent on the agenda items.

As the time allowed for the topic end approaches, give the group some warning that time is running out and then ask them to make an explicit decision whether the topic needs more time or should be ended.

If the participants genuinely need more time, then make sure they understand the consequences for later topics in the agenda. Something will be compressed or missed from the meeting agenda or the meeting will finish late.

It is a good idea to use a flipchart with a timeline on it and Post-it notes for the agenda outcomes. If you have to change the timings, you can move the Post-it notes around and re-plan the rest of the meeting visibly as you go along.

Managing participation

You can use your meeting tick chart again to check who is participating and who is not.

Remember to engage everyone early and regularly.

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Go back to your plan on how you wanted people to take part. If you are not getting good levels of participation, then try something different from the ideas in Chapter 8 or ask the group how you could build more participation and energy into the session.

Another good technique is to allocate different roles to different people – have a chairperson, facilitator, content leader for each outcome, scribe, and timekeeper. People with an explicit role naturally feel more engaged.

The remainder of the book “Kill bad meetings” focuses on how to cut out unnecessary face-to-face and virtual meetings, overcome cultural resistance to change and radically improve the meetings that remain. Find out more about the book and associated training programs at

Kill Bad Meetings is published by NB books £20.00 and available from good bookshops and Amazon.

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