Co-facilitation roles at a meeting

Instead of just one facilitator you may have two or more co-facilitators. You can share out more facilitation tasks amongst the group and make the job of facilitating easier and less intimidating. It is important for co-facilitators to agree before the meeting exactly what the roles in the meeting are and when and why they may change roles.

timekeeping: a group of people look at a clock

Co-facilitators can take turns and support each other. This is useful if the facilitator needs to step out of his/her role to take part in the discussion, have a break or when back-up is needed in cases of tension, conflict or confusion. Four ears hear better than two, so co-facilitators are useful to check understanding of what is being said.

Taking hands: One of the co-facilitators can take on the job of keeping track of whose turn it is to speak next, and of giving appropriate time limits to speakers.

Vibes-watching: Someone not actively facilitating can pay more attention to the emotional atmosphere of the meeting and watch out for individual members being affected. In situations of conflict and distress the vibes-watcher will intervene, for example by taking on the role of an intermediary, by taking time out with someone to listen to their concerns or suggest breaks and tools to improve the atmosphere of the meeting. Good vibes-watchers are able to sense underlying feelings by listening carefully and being aware of body language.

The timekeeper draws attention to the agreed time frame for the meeting and keeps the group to it, negotiating extensions for particular agenda items, or for the meeting as a whole, if needed.

Notetakers play a vital role at meetings: they keep track of decisions, take minutes or notes, collect reports, and also draw attention to incomplete decisions – for example who is going to contact so and so, and when? Notetakers can also provide a summary of the discussion if needed.

A doorkeeper is useful in public meetings or when some people may be late. The doorkeeper welcomes newcomers or latecomers and brings them up to speed on the meeting – aims, what’s been covered so far in the agenda, how decisions are being made, as well as the practical ‘housekeeping’ information such as tea and toilets. A doorkeeper can prevent the flow of a meeting being interrupted to recap every time someone enters the room.

In very large meetings it is advisable to have a practical co-ordinator responsible for the venue, equipment, refreshments and notices. The co-ordinator can also gather people together to start on time.