Whether you’re leading a seminar or just having a meeting with coworkers, a bit of stress comes along with public speaking.

You want to be a good communicator, but when that means relying on other people to speak up and expand on ideas, it can get a bit stressful.

Luckily, you can take some steps to ensure a solid discussion ensues. Follow some of these essential tips for effectively leading discussions to get started.

Establish Ground Rules

In any conversation, it’s important to lay out some ground rules. When it comes to day-to-day conversation, we all have ground rules, such as not interrupting someone else. They’re just not explicitly stated.

However, these are the same sort of items that should be explicitly stated at the beginnings of discussions. If you’re having your meeting through video chat rather than face-to-face, then maybe the first ground rule would be that cameras must stay on. Set up an agenda at the start of each meeting by going over the main points you would like to discuss. This will help to set out a layout that is easy for everyone to follow. 

Another good preparation tip is, if applicable, to provide any questions or topics of discussion prior to the meeting so that participants can prepare their thoughts ahead of time.

Don’t forget to introduce at least 5 minutes of ice-breakers – a little bit of fun to brighten up the mood never hurt anyone!

Key In on Facilitation Necessities

Understanding how to get people to talk to each other isn’t an easy feat. In fact, most people really aren’t equipped or prepared for it. But a key tip to proper facilitation is focusing on the transactional conversation rather than on the linear talking at someone else.

The job of the group leader is to adjust their approach—they need to either step away from any direct involvement throughout the meeting or have another facilitator step in when they want to join the conversation.

To put it simply, there should always be a facilitator who’s not participating in the actual conversation who can guide the conversation so that it stays on track.

Allow Time for Quiet Speakers

Facilitators also provide opportunities for people who may get barreled over in group discussions. Providing an inclusive environment is a key tip for effectively leading discussion, and that means allowing time for quiet speakers to give their input.

They may not fight to have their ideas heard, so their valuable input may go overlooked. When leading discussions, you should try to give them the space to share their thoughts.

Keep Discussions on Track

One of the most important things a facilitator does is keep the discussion on track. If someone spends too much time on a tangent, then it’s time to reel things back in.

If this becomes a constant battle, try using the “parking lot” technique: use a white board to hold ideas that are important—but not essential to the current topic—and circle back to them if time allows. It’s a respectful way to validate thought processes while staying efficient with time.

These are just a few tips for leading effective discussions—continue to refine as you go!

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