Here we’ll look at three roles: the chairperson, the facilitator and the participant. Many times there is confusion about the difference between a chair person and a facilitator.
In a meeting, is there a difference between the chair and the facilitator?
Enhancing Rural Community Capacity May 07, 2012|
While, in reality, the Chair and the Facilitator are often the same person, each role has different and distinct responsibilities. The Chair is the elected (or appointed) head of the team. The Chair is responsible for the meeting’s outcomes and work product. The facilitator is responsible for the process of the meeting(s). This includes making sure that the ground rules are being followed, the agenda is being followed and the participants are engaged and on-task. It is often good practice to separate the jobs of Chair and Facilitator.
When might the Chair choose to facilitate him/herself or ask another member of the group to facilitate?
- When a group is experienced in working together,
- the purpose of the meeting is clearly defined, and
- the agenda contains little chance for conflict or complicated processes.
When would it make sense to invite an outside facilitator?
- When the group is newly forming and/or trying to determine their purpose,
- there is a complicated agenda item, or
- the possibility of conflict is high.
American Research-based Learning Network – extension.org
Role of the Chairperson/Facilitator
Before the meeting – The chair will ask other participants for their input on the agenda. Once the agenda is complete the chair/facilitator will ensure it is sent to all participants before the meeting to review and prepare.
Opening the meeting – The chair welcomes everyone to the meeting at the agreed upon time. The chair then works with the group to set clear guidelines for conduct and outlines a clear purpose for the meeting.
Conducting the meeting – The chair guides the meeting as per the agenda. While guiding the meeting, it is the chair role to:
- Keep the group on task.
- Ask open-ended questions, encouraging participation from everyone.
- Acknowledge and reinforce constructive contributions.
- Help resolve disputes while remaining neutral and calm.
- Use appropriate humour; it can release tension and get people talking.
- Delegate and set deadlines for tasks.
- Clarifies and summarize points made and asks for agreement.
- Help the group reach consensus and reach conclusions.
- Set up a parking lot for items that arise that are not on the agenda.
Concluding the meeting – The chair is also responsible for ending the meeting. The keys steps to concluding a meeting include:
- Summarizing the group’s accomplishments.
- Review the assigned next steps and ensures each person knows their duties to perform.
- Tie up loose ends. Avoids hasty decisions simply because time is up.
- Save at least five minutes to look at the parking lot items and decides with the group what items should be carried forward to the next meeting.
- Set the date for the next meeting.
- End the meeting on a positive note. This will encourage members to follow-up on any actions they’ve agreed to do.
- End on time.
- Thank group members sincerely for their participation and contributions.
After the meeting – After the meeting the chair should ensure the minutes are accurate and that they are distributed to all participants within two days of the meeting. The chair should then follow up with participants that have action items to complete and then begin preparing for the next meeting.
A facilitator is a person whose job is to help manage an exchange of information. It is not necessarily the facilitator’s job to give information but to direct the flow of that information.
Characteristics of a good facilitator/chairperson:
- asks rather than tells
- builds relationships
- is task-oriented
- always initiates conversation rather than waiting for someone else to do it
- asks others’ opinions rather than always having to offer her/his own
- negotiates rather than dictates
- listens without interrupting
- draws energy from outside themselves rather than from within
- has self-confidence
- can keep the big picture in mind while working on the details
- avoids using “Why” questions as these can appear threatening, instead asks “What are some of the reasons for …?”
The Role of Participants
While it is the role of the chairperson to run the meeting, the participation of all members is also fundamental to the success of the meeting. Without good participation, the goals and objectives of a meeting will not be reached. The following are some guidelines on how to be a good meeting participant.
- Be on time: Always try to arrive a few minutes before the scheduled start time of the meeting. Often refreshments are served before a meeting but not always. You want to have enough time to greet other members, get your materials in order and be ready to start on time. If you are going to be late, be sure to call ahead to let someone know, then when you arrive, try to slip into the meeting quietly so as to not interrupt.
- Participate: You were invited to be part of the meeting for a reason. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and ideas as they present themselves. It’s really important to build trust in the group so that no one is afraid they will be criticized for their contributions. All ideas and suggestions should be considered by the group.
- Avoid dominating the proceedings
- Keep an open mind: Listen to everyone’s ideas. You never know where or when the next great idea will come along.
- Don’t Interrupt: Let each person finish what they are saying before you comment. They may not be going in the direction you think they are. It’s only good manners to hear someone out and you would want the same courtesy.
- Be Prepared: Review the agenda a few days before the meeting so that you know what topics will be discussed. Do your research, make decisions, and bring materials as needed. If participants are not ready, the process will be delayed and everyone’s time is wasted.
- Ask questions: When in doubt, ask questions to understand