The ultimate

Meeting Facilitation Toolkit

Everything you need to facilitate better virtual meetings and workshops

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The average person wastes 31 hours in unproductive meetings each month.

Meetings with your team or clients shouldn't feel like pulling teeth. They should be productive collaboration sessions that leave everyone aligned and inspired to do their best work.

Whether you’re a consultant who’s been facilitating workshops for decades, or you’re a manager looking to improve how your team collaborates in this new, virtual environment, you'll find the tools you need in this toolkit.

Get resources for planning and facilitating better meetings and workshops, including:

Best practices for remote facilitation

Meeting activities to break the ice

Templates for planning, brainstorming, design sprints, and more

Modern meeting culture is broken

Why most meetings suck and how facilitation helps

After a day packed with meetings, how often do you think to yourself, "How did I get nothing done today?" It seems like we as a society have accepted that meetings suck, and that has only been exacerbated by this new, remote-first world.

You're here because you're ready to break out of that pattern. Let's take a look at the biggest problems that most meetings suffer from and how to solve them with facilitation.

Unclear objective

How are you supposed to get things done when you’re not working toward a specific outcome?

Bad agenda

Attendees should never wonder why they’re at a meeting.

Hierarchies

Power struggles and unclear roles create unnecessary blocks in meeting flow.

Elephant in the room

Facing problems head-on is tough but necessary.

Low engagement

When people feel awkward, overlooked, or bored, engagement (and productivity) drops.

Actionless discussion

Why talk about what you want to do when you could actually work together to get it done?

Wrong attendees

We’ve all been in meetings we didn’t need to attend. If someone can’t meaningfully contribute, they don’t need to be there.

One-directional

Too many meetings feel like lectures instead of collaborative sessions, with one or a few voices dominating the conversation.

Poor documentation

The meeting’s over … now what? It’s easy to forget what was discussed without meeting notes and clear next steps.

Better meeting facilitation can solve these problems. Help your team collaborate, get creative, and solve tough challenges together.

Facilitation skills are leadership skills that each of us has to have to create the world we want to create.

Nevada Lane
Founder, Lane Change Consulting

Everyone can — and should! — develop facilitation skills

To put a stop to bad meetings, we need to be the change we want to see. That means normalizing facilitation as a core competency for everyone on our teams.

While being a full-time facilitator is a specialized trade, everyone should learn basic facilitation techniques. In this way, facilitation is a lot like project management, or writing, or public speaking. They’re all skills every professional should have in their repertoire, but it takes training and experience to make any of them a career.

As you grow your facilitation skills, you'll learn how to ignite creativity and tease out your team’s best ideas, consistently and methodically. You will help your team define and creatively solve the right problems by taking advantage of their combined skills, knowledge, and perspectives. Because that's how meetings are supposed to be.

Create your personal facilitation growth plan

Use this template to create your own facilitator development plan. First, explore your strengths as a facilitator, and then dive into opportunities around growing from your weaknesses.

Planning virtual meetings and workshops

Strategies for planning better meetings in a remote-first world

Understand your reason for meeting

Before you start planning, make sure you have a clear reason for meeting. Meetings should be reserved for real-time collaboration, not status updates or one-sided presentations. If you can accomplish your goal asynchronously, cancel the meeting and let everyone contribute on their own time.

Build team camaraderie and trust

Forego awkward Zoom happy hours in favor of remote team building activities that promote connection.

Share status updates and get everyone aligned

Status updates can usually be done async, but standups can be useful for high-velocity teams.

Identify and prioritize problems that need solving

Explore different problems and decide what to tackle first.

Brainstorm as a team

Facilitate a guided brainstorming exercise that encourages creativity and collaboration.

Gather feedback and get consensus

Collect feedback from stakeholders and iterate live to come to a consensus faster.

Plan for a project, sprint, or program

Bring everyone together to intentionally map out each component of your next project.

Ask yourself
Could this meeting be replaced with an email, a video, or asynchronous work?
What outcomes do I need to achieve by the end of the meeting?
What steps can we take to achieve these outcomes, and how long should we allot for each step?

Invite the

right people

No more mass invites! Only invite attendees who will provide value and insight. Lean meetings move quicker and are more inclusive by design, and you respect people’s time by being choosy. If someone can't meaningfully contribute to the meeting, they don’t need to be there.

Sales team
Marketing team
Product team
Sales team
Marketing team
Product team

Use the RACI acronym to help you identify who should attend a meeting.

Responsible

Who should perform this activity or do the work?

Accountability

Who is primarily accountable and has the power to vote yes or no?

Consulted

Who needs to provide feedback and contribute to the project or activity?

Informed

Who needs to know of the decision or action decided upon?

People hate meetings, and yet so many of us crave connection. Most of us are inclined to be successful, yet often meetings don’t foster productivity.

Skilled facilitators know how to nurture our motivation to be successful by removing the blocks that prevent us from accomplishing together what we know we cannot do alone.

Lynda Baker
Master Facilitator, Meeting Solutions

Create a foolproof meeting agenda

Create a structure for your meeting that timeboxes activities so you can keep the flow on track. Don't forget to include time to introduce attendees to any new technology they'll need to use, a warmup to get everyone loose, and time to reflect and set next steps at the end. Break activities into shorter exercises (e.g., 10 minutes for breakout group brainstorming, 5 minutes to prioritize ideas) to minimize the risk of getting off track.

For ideas about how to structure your collaboration sessions, you can turn to design thinking, agile, and lean methodologies. They provide frameworks for solving problems and getting work done as a team.

When you send the meeting invitation, make sure to include:
1
The meeting objectives
2
A timeboxed agenda
3
A link to join the meeting
4
A link to supporting assets, like a slide deck or a mural
5
Instructions for pre-work

10 virtual meeting principles

People train for years to become professional facilitators, so no one expects you to be an expert overnight. Bookmark these virtual meeting principles and keep them on hand as helpful reminders.

Overprepare

Remote sessions require planning. The more you work out in advance, the better the session.

Get personal

Take time to get to know each other outside of meetings. If you can’t meet in person, schedule time for virtual team building.

Break it down

Consider planning two shorter sessions rather than one long one. Split exercises into short steps (e.g., 5 minutes). Timebox everything.

Know the tools

Become the expert in how your tools work, and make sure everyone has access ahead of time.

Maximize together time

Get a head start and assign pre- and post-work. Then, manage the follow-up asynchronously.

Even out the interaction

Make sure everyone can participate equally. Empathize with how different remote conditions affect collaboration during the meeting.

Overcommunicate

If it feels repetitive, it’s probably the right amount of communication.

Experiment

Don’t try too much at once. Experiment to find your sweet spot.

Be flexible

Go with the flow. Make the best of the situations that don't go as planned.

Think digital-first

Even if everyone can get together in one room, plan for a digital outcome from the beginning.

Get the complete guide to facilitating remote workshops

Everything we know about work is changing: where it's done, how it's done, and who does it. As facilitators, we just got everyone comfy using sticky notes and colored markers, but there’s more to teach. Download the free guide to get more tips, tools, and tactics for facilitating engaging remote workshops.

Templates: Online icebreakers, warmups, and energizers

Get loose, get acquainted, and get over your fear of looking silly

Let’s face it: online meetings can be awkward, especially if you don’t know anyone on the call. You might still be waking up with your first cup of coffee while someone else is bouncing with energy in a later time zone.

But with the right exercises, you can make everyone feel at ease and shed their fear of looking silly. The key is to find a simple way to form an emotional connection that will help people bond, regardless of where they are or how well they know each other.

That’s where online icebreakers, warmups, and energizers come in. These short, team-building exercises can help meeting attendees overcome shyness, get in a creative headspace, and get energized.

Online icebreakers and warmups

Online icebreakers and warmups are particularly useful at the beginning of an online meeting, whether or not the attendees already know each other. Think of them as an introduction to let people know who they’ll be collaborating with during the session. Start from one of the templates below.

Where in the world?

This is a good one for globally distributed teams. Everyone drops a pin on a world map to show where they live, and then they share their favorite thing about their hometown or country.

Sketch your neighbor

Everyone gets assigned a team member's name, and they have one minute to draw a portrait of them. Then, guess who's who!

35+ templates ready to go
Explore all icebreaker templates

Online energizers and meeting activities

We’re all too familiar with that post-lunch drowsy vibe in meetings. When that happens, we need energizers to get everyone reengaged. Energizers should be fast-paced and exciting, leaving everyone in a positive mood and motivated to move forward.

Shape up

Call out a shape — for example, a triangle, heart, the letter "A," a house, etc.

Ask people to move their arms and hands up/down or left/right to recreate the shape in the gallery mode you’re viewing.

When the team has managed to make the shape, ask them to hold it so you can take a screenshot. Then, try again with another, more complicated shape.

Virtual charades

Pair each participant with someone else.

Ask each person to choose a title of a book, movie, TV show, or song that their partner will have to imitate in front of the webcam to the rest of the group.

Tell participants to send the title they chose in a direct message to their partner.

In pairs, take turns acting out what your partner sent you. The rest of the group has one minute to guess what you’re mimicking.

Guided methods: Proven templates and frameworks

Because creativity without structure is chaos

We've been talking a lot about making meetings more creative — but what does that truly mean?

What we need is a guide, or more specifically, guided visual methodologies — helpful structures to assist your work. Your team needs a balance of creative freedom and constructive guidance to generate the best results. This structure comes in the form of guided methods and frameworks.

Creativity involves variability — different ways of doing things. But creativity also involves constraints.

Scott Barry Kaufman
Cognitive Scientist & Author

What are guided methods and frameworks?

As a meeting facilitator, you are tasked with guiding the conversation and keeping everyone engaged. Like Goldilocks, you don’t want the group work dynamic to be too rigid or too loose; you need it to be just right. Guided visual methods help you find that sweet spot of team productivity.

When you adopt design thinking, lean, and agile methodologies and frameworks, you can find the sweet spot for your team, and you won't need to reinvent the wheel every time. Once you figure out what works best, you can replicate it — whether for something as simple as a weekly team meeting that includes a team building exercise, or something as complex as quarterly strategic planning, customer journey mapping, or a design sprint.

Design thinking methods

Design thinking is based on human-centered design principles. It encourages teams to focus on putting people at the center of product, service, or process design. Design thinking helps teams better understand the needs and frustrations of customers, generate revolutionary solutions, and prototype faster.

Plan the best path to achieve your project's goal

Structure a project kickoff using the Design Thinking Canvas by visiting each of the four corners in the template (People, Vision, Challenges, Impact).

Use it to align on the project destination, and as your map unfolds, use supporting methods – like developing a Stakeholder Map to investigate People – to zoom in and explore areas of the mural in more detail.

Agile frameworks

Agile methods optimize for value throughout the development process through small, frequent development iterations. These methods focus on receiving and incorporating customer feedback to continuously improve the offering and easily adapt to changing requirements throughout the process. The approach helps companies ensure they build the right products to meet the ever shifting set of customer requirements.

Stay on top of your team's progress

Good communication is essential to the success of any collaborative team, and check-ins that keep your team in sync are essential to meeting goals. This template helps you to check in with your team members about what they’re working on, what still needs to get done, and if there’s anything standing in their way.

Lean methodologies

Lean methodologies are implemented as an optimization strategy to relentlessly and continuously pursue the elimination of waste. Lean as a methodology identifies value streams, maps current state and future state processes, designs metrics to capture improvements, and reduces inefficiencies caused by wait time or down time. Lean focused teams strive to enable decision making to shorten the time to deliver value to customers.

Discover and prioritize your team's next big opportunity

Which project should we tackle next? Which opportunity should we run our next sprint on? How do we involve the team when prioritizing but avoid bias and groupthink? Radical prioritization facilitates alignment, a unified vision about opportunities that will create business impact and customer value.

Use this template to quickly prioritize the top opportunities your team should tackle next.

Remote facilitation best practices

Get loose, get acquainted, and get over your fear of looking silly

As a facilitator, you're not just leading a meeting. You're igniting imagination and teasing out a team’s best ideas. Facilitators help to define and creatively solve the right problems by taking advantage of the team’s combined skills, knowledge, and perspective. It takes time and training to become a professional facilitator, but with these tips, anyone can improve their facilitation skills.

Your job [as a facilitator] is to help group members express their observations, feelings, and insights so they can take collective actions.

Lynda Baker
Master Facilitator, Meeting Solutions

11 ways to facilitate better meetings

Assign prework and set expectations

The more work participants can do asynchronously, the more effective your time together will be.

Assign roles

It's tough to facilitate and take notes at once. Consider assigning roles, like a moderator, a scribe, or breakout group leaders.

Timebox all activities

Designate a set amount of time for each agenda item. You may be surprised what your team can come up with when they're racing against the clock.

Speak up

Make sure you have a reliable audio/visual setup, and speak up so everyone on the call can hear you.

Utilize warmups and energizers

When you’re remote, you need to be intentional about creating space for connection and getting everyone in the right headspace.

Get folks comfortable with the tools

Practice using the tools. Onboard everyone with a quick exercise that requires participants to use each one.

Create a workshop dashboard

For multi-session workshops, create a single source of truth for all the links and details participants will need access to. You can do this in a workspace like MURAL or in a Google Doc.

Switch it up

Integrate remote participants’ ability to multitask by giving impromptu tasks, like searching for examples of the topic at hand. Don't be afraid to try new things!

Encourage participation

Make sure one or a few voices aren't dominating the conversation. At first, folks may feel uncomfortable speaking up, so keep an eye out and encourage quieter attendees to share their ideas.

Set next steps

Never leave a meeting without setting next steps and defining ownership of action items.

Follow up

Send a follow-up email recapping the outcomes of your meeting, reiterating your next steps, and sharing any artifacts, documents, and prototypes you created in the meeting.

Facilitating meetings with MURAL

More than an online whiteboard

MURAL is a digital workspace for visual collaboration. Our platform and activation programs enable innovative teams to work together – no matter where they are – in a shared and dynamic virtual environment.

Try it free for 30 days and experience why companies like IBM, E-Trade, and Atlassian use MURAL to put their imagination to work.