Heated meetings may provide great TV drama, but they shouldn’t be that way in real life. An effective meeting facilitator is a key to making them work for everyone. 

We have all been there; walking away from a hospitality team meeting thinking it has been a waste of time, deflated and with unresolved issues. 

The truth is, all too often team meetings in hospitality become unfocused and inefficient. (This is doubly true for virtual or hybrid meetings, when participants may be joining from different time zones or home environments where there are too many distractions.) 

On top, many people consider meetings as ‘separate’ from their ‘real’ work – a chance to get away from the desk, grab some coffee and interact, with productivity, if it happens, as an unexpected bonus. According to a 2017 survey among senior managers carried out by Harvard Business School, 65% said that meetings deterred them from carrying out their individual work.   

At the very least, meetings should be productive. And with some forward-thinking, they can be inspiring and enjoyable too! 

The Role Of The Meeting Facilitator 

Effective facilitation is crucial for successful hospitality team meetings. 

A designated meeting facilitator doesn’t have to be high up the managerial ladder (in fact it can sometimes be helpful if they aren’t) but someone who is personable, intuitive, organized and has an overall understanding of the topics to be discussed and possible outcomes of decisions made. 

He or she may sit on the sidelines or be active in the conversation: But as a good facilitator, he or she will know exactly when each of these actions is appropriate. 


The Qualities Needed In A Hospitality Team Meeting Facilitator 

John Naisbitt, the recently deceased business visionary and author of the seminal book Megatrends, said that ‘The new leader is a facilitator, not an order-giver.’ 

Successful hospitality team leaders recognize that their role is to foster collaboration and support everyone to do their best. They must encourage participation and shared responsibility and promote mutual understanding. Humanity, empathy and creativity are increasingly recognized as essential leadership qualities, along with vision, team management and bravery. 

The role of the team meeting facilitator provides an ideal situation to put these skills to the test!   

Here is a list of meeting facilitator roles, and tips, tricks and hacks to optimize team productivity and task organization in the meeting room.  


Meeting Manager

A few days before the meeting, consult your team and make sure there is a clear agenda for the session and a list of desired outcomes. This should be emailed to all participants a few days beforehand, with links to relevant documents for each point to be discussed. 

Even if your hospitality team meeting is on the floor with kitchen or maintenance staff, chalk up the points to be discussed on a whiteboard in a prominent place so staff have time to digest the information and bring their thoughts to the session. Or encourage them to put post-its on the board of their ideas which they can elaborate on during the actual meeting. 

Think about the order of topics, perhaps setting the more complex ones first and leaving the less important ones for the final minutes when quicker decisions are more likely. 


Meeting Technician 

It may sound obvious but check that all AV equipment is running smoothly before the hospitality team meeting begins and any passwords you need to log-in in virtual participants are handy. If the hospitality team meeting is in a public-access space or communal area, do your utmost to eliminate external noise and disturbances. Cell phones must be off – including yours! 


Meeting Guru

Memorize the order of the hospitality team meeting agenda and even if it’s not your department, a working knowledge of the issues that are to be discussed – nothing is more demotivating for a team than a facilitator who appears unfamiliar with the agenda. 

On the other hand, new topics can (and should) arise through productive, organic conversation. If you sense that left-field issue has entered the conversation of the hospitality team meeting, either invite participants to reflect for a few seconds and jot down their thoughts or make a note of them to be discussed at the next meeting.  

There will always be some participants who are hesitant to speak in public, even in small groups. Rather than putting them on the spot, ask them open-ended questions, such as “Do you agree?” This gives them an opportunity to participate. Or if appropriate, you could also (very diplomatically) assign a few easy roles to more passive members of the group such as note-taking or timekeeping.   


Meeting Leader, Motivator and Peacemaker

Everyone expects a meeting to start on a lighthearted note, so have a few snappy lines ready. Be mindful though that it takes a while for people to warm up and do be careful of singling anyone out in the early stages, however well-intentioned your comments are. 

Always thank people for their participation in the hospitality team meeting and build bridges between participants with common conversational threads. Praise for specific input. For example, rather than saying; “Thanks for that,” say “Thanks for that very interesting comment on timesheets Susan.”

Avoid what can be perceived as direct criticism by inverting it into a question. For example, rather than saying, “This is not a priority to discuss right now,” ask “Why do you feel that’s important to discuss this at this meeting’?”

Group dynamics can bring out the worst in people, especially a group structured on hierarchy. If there is a dissenter or interrupter in the group, the most important thing is to acknowledge their comment with something like, “Sammy, let's get back to your interesting feedback after everyone else has made their point.”  At the end of the meeting, you could ask him or her to state what was on their mind.


Meeting Secretary 

Meetings can be intense, so sense out a natural end to the session even if there are a few non-crucial points still to be discussed. Before adjourning, summarize the key outcomes and paths of actions – this will give participants a way to express final concerns and thoughts and instill a sense of time well spent.