Have you ever held or attended group meetings where it seems no one can agree on anything?

When one person suggests an idea or plan of action, there is another person with a counterargument. Making group decisions in a meeting can be tough, especially when a lot of egos are involved.

So how do you handle such a situation? Funny that you ask because we have a solution!

What is a focus meeting?

Focus meetings are centralized on a single topic, and the objectives are clearly set before the discussion. These group meetings are essential for organizations that need to gather and compare data, create solutions, agree on a decision, and resolve a problem. Participants are also selected when it comes to focus meetings.

During focus meetings, participants are expected to share their feedback, opinions, and reviews on a particular product or service. For example, your organization just launched a new product; a focus meeting would usually be scheduled during the first 30-days of the product launch, so you have a pulse of how the public is receiving the product. In this meeting, you would share common strengths and opportunities in a free-form style.

If the focus meeting is to resolve an issue, possible and feasible solutions are thrown on the table for everyone to consider and weigh before coming up with a final strategy.

How to Facilitate a Group Meeting

One of the striking differences between group meetings and focus meetings is the latter’s more organized and structured approach. The facilitator would always need to ensure that the meeting stays on track and achieve the meeting’s primary objective.

Here are recommendations on how to conduct a focus group meeting:

1. Set Everything for the Meeting

This is not just limited to the objectives of the focus group meeting, but you need to prepare all the specific details. More often than not, goals are broad. So you need to drill down the what, where, who, when, why, and how’s of your purpose.

Part of setting the meeting is identifying the people who need to be at the meeting and can have user input. For example, you want to incorporate a new software program for deliveries. Your core group meeting invitees should be technologically oriented, have computers to extend their functionality and those from the procurement and logistics team.

2. No Person Left Behind

The critical thing about team decisions is that every team member should feel involved in the decision-making process right from the beginning.

Prior to your meeting, make sure that all the participants are up to speed on your project. When you send out the agenda, solicit their input beforehand.

Use a web application that allows for multiple collaborators on one document without the back-to-back emails. This will definitely make your job much easier.

3. A Little Hand Holding

Consider approaching specific participants if you are aware of conflicting opinions on certain aspects of the project and take the time to listen. Allow them to express their views to you.

Acknowledging everyone’s insights is no way of you siding or agreeing with them. But it is vital that you set the tone where everyone will understand that all opinions and feedback are welcome and respected.

This way, you can have a better grip on what to expect when disagreements arise. You may also consider gathering as much information as you can on the area of concern so that you will be ready to answer the question or refer to your information arsenal as needed.

If you can, consider having backup; invite experts on the subject of concern to the meeting to address problems and answer questions.

Group meeting facilitators don’t just lead and make sure that everything is on track. Another important responsibility is to diffuse any tensions and create an environment where every opinion or feedback is appreciated and respected.

 4. Get Over Gridlocks

The best way to avoid gridlock in team decisions is to plan how decisions will be made as a group. Will the majority rule, and will all final decisions be unanimous? Would there be a grace period before the participants put in their choices and what is the timeline?

This is something your team should discuss and agree on a rule of practice and can be applied in all decisions that affect the team. Again, everyone on your team must be involved when it comes to the organization’s decision-making activities.

5. Practice Transparency

During focus group discussions, record the exchange of ideas and thoughts. If audio-recording is not possible, then have someone reliable and detail-oriented to take down notes.

After the meeting, create a transcript or meeting minutes to be shared with your team and those who attended. Have a summary and share the results of the focus group meeting.

This will give the meeting attendees, and your organization confidence that the purpose of the gathering was met and all insights were accounted for. In other words, that the meeting was indeed necessary and was a productive one.

Benefits of Group Meetings

Compared to regular meetings, most business leaders find focus group meetings a necessary and reliable strategy in getting things done.

Below are some of the advantages of conducting and having group meetings:

  1. It gets everyone on board and aligned with the goals of the team.
  2. It becomes the ideal avenue to clarify and reassess the premature findings and recommendations.
  3. It allows organizations to hear customer feedback without biases.
  4. It provides the opportunity to re-consider ideas that were initially not considered – but is now likely to win client confidence.
  5. It gives flexibility for everyone to dig deeper into the challenges and develop more feasible and solid recommendations.

The Ending Note

When it comes to decision-making, the more unbiased input you manage to get, the better your decisions can be. One of the most effective ways of achieving this is by regularly conducting group meetings with your teams.

Save the department meetings for other times when you want a focused and strategized gathering where you can expect results; group meetings are your best ally.