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Recently, I was with a group of facilitators and we were discussing current and upcoming trends in meeting facilitation. Among the buzzing topics were inclusion and accessibility, gaining traction as crucial elements in successful facilitation. The consensus? Fostering inclusion isn't just a goal; it's a must for driving innovation and productivity in meetings. Inclusive meetings ensure that all voices are not only heard but actively valued, contributing to a richer, more well-rounded discussion and outcomes. Here are some practices that will help foster inclusive meetings:
Set Community Agreements: To kick things off, the facilitator needs to create a safe and welcoming environment. Establishing community agreements sets the tone and focus, ensuring everyone feels empowered to share their perspectives. These guidelines also serve as a reference point when conflicts arise, holding everyone, including the facilitator, accountable.
Active Listening: Active listening is a cornerstone of inclusive meeting facilitation. Encourage participants to listen deeply to one another, avoiding interruptions and showing genuine interest in the ideas presented. Create space for individuals to finish their thoughts and consider using techniques like round-robin discussions to ensure everyone has an opportunity to contribute.
Use Inclusive Language: Mindful language is crucial. Facilitators should use respectful, unbiased, and inclusive terms to create an environment where participants feel comfortable expressing themselves authentically. Simple steps like asking for and using participants' pronouns contribute to inclusivity.
Plan the agenda: Strategic agenda planning is a must. Craft an agenda that balances perspectives and allows ample time for discussions. This prevents certain voices from dominating the conversation and allows for a more sharing of ideas.
Foster Collaboration: Diverse collaboration methods, such as brainstorming sessions, journaling, or small group discussions, cater to different communication styles. These techniques empower individuals to contribute, enriching the discussion and improving the overall experience.
Get Feedback: Inclusive meeting facilitation is an ongoing learning process. After each meeting, ask for feedback on the facilitation process itself. This not only helps the facilitator refine their techniques but also signals to participants that their input is genuinely valued.
Inclusive meeting facilitation is more than just a checklist; it's a mindset. By fostering an environment of respect, active listening, and open communication, you can create meetings that harness diverse perspectives and empower individuals to bring their authentic selves to the table.
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