Five Ways To Ensure Group Conversations Move Forward!


Today I want to share with you all five ways to keep conversations moving forward specifically when working within groups. If you ever worked in a group, you know how critical it is to have structure in place and to maintain direction so the expected outcomes get reached.

It’s common for meetings to lack structure and be a disorganized chaos of ideas, opinions, and attitudes which results in lost productivity, wasted time and delayed action. Unclear meetings that don’t involve the participants often complicate existing communication problems even further which leads to bitterness among group members. Members become bored and attempt to leave meetings early or to avoid meetings completely, but with the use of a facilitator, the group can stay on task and communicate in a relevant and effective manner to achieve the expected results.

Facilitating group meetings can be difficult because we’re encouraged to be “nice” and we don’t want to appear pushy, in-charge, or mean when keeping the conversation moving forward. With the five facilitation tips below, you can ensure effective and engaging meetings that encourage participation from all members without appearing as a difficult or pushy facilitator.

1. Involve Every Meeting Participant

Often one person will take on a leadership role where they feel the need to direct the flow of conversation when they are using the meeting as a personal platform to express their personal thoughts, ideas, and opinions. For fear of appearing mean or hostile, other participants will allow that individual to command the conversation although their body language illustrates boredom or desire to speak. As a facilitator, acknowledge the speaker and redirect the conversation to others by asking their opinions.

For example, “Adam – well done keeping us informed on the golf industry. Bill you just recently started a golf store, what have you learned there? What internal success stories can you share with the group?”

In the above example, the facilitator maintains the connection to Adam while redirecting and engaging another participant in the meeting. Starting with the acknowledgement makes redirecting easier, then picking up on what others have said or their background allows you to redirect the conversation to keep every participant involved.

2. Be Comfortable Interrupting When Appropriate

To facilitate an effective meeting, you need to interrupt. Interruptions are a tool of facilitators, and interruptions don’t have to be bad. Interrupting others seems difficult because we’re encouraged to listen and pay attention when others speak. We hold back the urge to stop participants from continuing to be irrelevant because of how we’ll appear as a facilitator. Set your personal ego aside and politely stop that participant from speaking – all the meeting participants will thank you when they achieve the desired outcome.

Surprisingly, those who speak most often need cues of when to stop to allow other participants to speak. Facilitators keep the conversation on-topic, prevent participants from monopolizing a conversation and achieving the purpose of the meeting.

3. Actively Listen

The easiest way to miss value in a meeting is thinking about what to say while others are speaking. Thinking about your position or response while someone is explaining their position or idea means you miss key information and context. A good facilitator stays present and focuses their attention to understand what other participants are saying. A facilitator keeps their mind from wandering to other ideas while another is speaking. A facilitator takes in all that is being said so they can interject, summarize or connect others to enhance group clarity or redirect the conversation. Without active listening, effective communication rarely occurs and the expected outcome never gets achieved.

4. Know When To Leave A Subject

When facilitating a group of buzzing members full of energy, you can struggle to keep every idea captured and organized. Chaos can be good, and organized chaos is better. As a facilitator it’s important to maintain a certain amount of flexibility in moving between subjects, but also to be aware of when ideas are left hanging.

In groups with disengaged participants, shifting subjects quickly can lead to more engagement yet can also lead to many open-ended ideas that don’t become actions because the conversation on the idea never reached completion.

As a facilitator, recognize that the subject is changing and that an idea is left incomplete. Stop the group and ask what needs to happen for the idea to become an action. This encourages participants to build on the idea and often leads to deeper listening and better dialogue so the meeting starts to produce results.

5. Build Relationships

Communicating ideas is good, and relating to one another’s ideas is better. Chatting doesn’t mean relationships develop. When we relate to others we gain perspective and better understand how others feel and think. We consider their input differently – so we find more opportunities to build on their ideas and react better to unconventional approaches. Some participants invest less time relating and talk without realizing that they may have offended or insulted others or their ideas.

To be heard, respected, and thought of as “real,” consider how you listen, respect and are real to the other meeting participants. Do you consider others’ perspective when speaking? Do you show respect for others ideas and build upon their ideas or do you only promote your own solutions? Are you illustrating your care for the quality of conversation and connections? Building relationships allows you to draw the best out of others while reducing the friction that creates heat and drains momentum during meetings. Building meaningful relationships allows you the ability to be direct and keep group’s conversation moving forward.

The key to being an effective and engaging facilitator is to maintain a curious approach versus a commanding approach. The next time you facilitate try out the tips above and let us know how you changed the results.



Each person has a natural communication style.
Understanding yours can and will impact how effective you are when dealing with friends, co-workers and clients.