Public Lab Wiki documentation

Facilitate your meetings

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This page includes resources for facilitation for meetings, and decision making processes. Please edit and add!

There is a conversation in the room that only these people in this moment can have. Find it.*

Before your meeting:

  • Find a meeting time that works for people you want to attend. A doodle poll can be a good tool for setting a meeting time.
  • Find a meeting space that can accommodate your group and make everyone comfortable. Some important things to consider are the size of your group, how you want the room setup and if the space will be accessible for everyone (handicap accessible, non-binary bathrooms)
  • Set and send an intention, goal, or agenda in advance. This helps people know what to expect and what you're hoping to accomplish in person.

Meeting ground rules

Ground rules are really helpful for meetings. It's important that people buy into the ground rules before meetings start and that everyone has the chance to weigh in and add others they see as being important. Below is a list of some ground rules that can be helpful:

  • Be a steward of the time and space - when everyone is a steward of the time and space, it takes the pressure off the person or group who might be facilitating. When everyone takes ownership of the space, participants can help with things like note taking, time keeping, and keeping the meeting space clean.
  • Be fully present - When you go to an event or a meeting, you dedicate time to that issue. It's important to recognize for yourself that you've done that and to recognize that others in the room have done it as well. To be fully present means that participants are listening, interacting, and not allowing themselves to be distracted by things like email or cell phones.
  • Consider best intentions - By setting up a mental frame that everyone is coming to the meeting space with the best intentions, and that comments said there were said with good intentions, helps participants to contemplate what is said, consider positive frames and ensures that no one is jumping to negative conclusions.
  • Consider impact - Closely related to the above point "consider best intentions" which applies while you listen to others, when talking consider the impact of your statement to others who are listening to you.
  • Ask for clarification - Anyone can ask for clarification at the meeting. This helps to make sure everyone stays on the same page, that no one is misunderstood, and that no one is left out by simple things such as acronyms that could be clarified.
  • Be constructive with comments not destructive - ensure that people are building on conversations and ideas instead of taking them down. It's okay to disagree, but disagree in a constructive way.
  • Use stack - Keeping stack in a meeting can be a useful tool for helping to make sure that everyone is heard and we're not losing people in the conversation. Stack is a list of people who wish to speak on the topic. One strategy in stack is to bump people to the top of the list who haven't spoken before. This method needs someone to volunteer to "keep Stack." Note: do not get in Stack simply to indicate agreement, instead....
  • Snap or wave fingers to show agreement instead of adding voice - Often times in meetings when we want to show that we are in agreement, we have a tendency to get back in the speaker queue to repeat things others have already said. One strategy you can use to show support is to snap or wave your fingers instead of using your voice.
  • Limit turns to one minute, and one (new) topic at a time - Limit speaker time to give everyone a chance to speak who wants to. Within that minute, ensure that only one point is made by the speaker, to make sure the discussion doesn't lose coherence.
  • Call for a minute break At any time, anyone can call for a minute break. Good for when the discussion is heating up too much.
  • Decode jargon - Specialized language such as complex scientific or technical terms, or saying acronyms aloud can prevent us from understanding each other. Aim to use the easiest to understand yet accurate term possible, and allow time in your statements to unpack acronyms fully. Option to use "jargon goggles" hand signal to gently remind a team-member to check their language.
  • Keep track of the topics to circle back to - Meeting agendas can derail when we realize we have things to talk about other than what we've set out to do. It's important to keep track of things you want to circle back to, but recognize when it's off topic. It's important to allow the group to keep a list of these and offer time to circle back to these issues. Sometimes this strategy is called the "Parking Lot" or the "Bike Lot" as in "let's write down that idea and put it in the bike lot."
  • Give content warnings- If you will be bringing up sensitive topics, give content warnings first and obtain consent from those with whom you are sharing communication space. We type "CW" for "content warning" on our text channels (email, slack, chat), on our social media accounts, and in notes taken during meetings. We say "content warning" in our live meetings. Allow people to excuse themselves from hearing or discussing topics. Note that people may change their preferences on when, where, and with whom they share these conversations. Also note that this community tends not to discuss topics requiring content warnings on
  • Use structured conversation techniques - Complex topics involve facts, feelings, and ideas, and actions. Facilitating a discussion by asking questions in a sequence can help to both phase and pace the discussion. Start with Objective questions about facts, continue to Reflective questions about feelings, Interpretative questions about suitable ideas, and eventually Decision questions that lead to collective action. (ORID)



Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Facilitated event models in use at Public Lab

Other processes

Other resources


  • lead quote on this page --> idea articulated by Taj James in the co-facilitation of environmental justice resource redistribution initiative Building Equity and Alignment's inaugural meeting in 2013. Surfaced by adrienne maree brown in Emergent Strategies.