Facilitating a meeting can seem like an intimidating task, but some basic guidelines can help you keep a meeting running smoothly on the rails:

  • Create a thorough agenda. Having an agenda on hand will allow attendees of the meeting to see the overall goals of discussion and allow you to have a framework to guide the meeting. 
  • Have an introductory activity if there are new people at the meeting. It’s important to create a comfortable environment to encourage engagement. 
  • Go through the agenda line by line. If there are action items, make sure to include “what, how, who, when and where.” Make a note of deadlines and volunteers.
  • Keep an eye on the mood and energy of the room. If people look disengaged, it may be because there is a small group dominating the discussion or it may be that the meeting is just dragging on. Make sure to include breaks. Group go-rounds and brainstorming sessions can encourage more involvement. If there are “difficult” people in the meeting, be sure to address their behaviors in a manner that is not accusatory. Set time limits for comments, go-rounds, and a reminder of the rules of respectful discussion before the meeting can all help mitigate disruptive behavior. 
  • End the meeting in a timely way, don’t let it go over the time you asked people to give to the meeting. Summarize and synthesize the contributions to the meeting. Make sure all responsibilities moving forward are understood. 

Keeping Stack & Progressive Stack

“Keeping Stack” simply refers to maintaining a list of people who are in line to speak during a meeting. This can be done in various ways, such as by members raising their hands during in-person meetings or typing “Stack” in the chat box during a meeting over Zoom. During general meetings Coulee DSA usually designates one person to facilitate the meeting and another person to keep stack.

Progressive Stack is a method of ordering comments that privileges those who have not yet spoken, as well as people who may face exclusion due to their race, age, sexuality or gender. All too often, white men in our society are socialized to dominate conversations. This is a method that checks this tendency and puts other voices to the front of the line. In a large meeting, a “stack-keeper” will note everybody who would like to speak and ensure that the order of speakers does not facilitate a few voices at the expense of others. We also encourage people to “step up” or “step back,” depending on the dynamics of a meeting. 

Credit: Madison DSA New Member’s Manual