Beatrice Briggs

Beatrice Briggs, a Certified Professional Facilitator, is director of the International Institute for Facilitation and Change. A native of the USA, she has lived in Mexico since 1998 and works all over Latin America with civil society, international NGOs, and public and private sector organizations to help them make their meetings, forums, and assemblies highly interactive and participatory.

She is the author of the book, Introduction to Consensus, creator of the 4-minute illustrated video, What do facilitators really do?, and the editor of The Bonfire Collection: a Complete Reference Guide to Facilitation and Change.

Recent Posts

From the Michigan Woods to Internationally Recognized Facilitator

May 9, 2019 by Beatrice Briggs (3 minute read)

November 1991. Northern Michigan, almost at the Canadian border. Ten people gathered in a rustic inn for a weeklong training in group facilitation and consensus decision-making.

I had recently joined a grass roots, ecological network in which meetings were facilitated and decisions were made by consensus. Until then, my meeting-going experience had been limited to parent-teacher events at my children's school. I had never heard of facilitation, much less seen it in action.

A colleague and I realized that we had a dearth of trained facilitators in our area, so we recruited the most respected facilitator in the movement (Caroline Estes from Oregon) and committed to organizing and attending the training.

Even though I helped organize the training, I was skeptical. I thought, “A whole week? What could be so complicated about this that we need so much time to learn it?”

Short answer: It was an initiation, thinly disguised as training. A life-changing introduction to work that would eventually cause me to move to Mexico, learn Spanish and work in over 30 countries around the world.

Photo by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash

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How to Prevent the Opinion Wars That Derail Decision Making

Jan 18, 2019 by Beatrice Briggs in meeting design (4 minute read)

One of the most important reasons for holding a meeting is to make decisions.

Yet too often, the decision-making process degenerates into a battle between competing points of view. Participants become polarized, entrenched in their positions and paralyzed by their disagreements. Unable to resolve the conflict, the group often makes a decision that everyone says they can live with, but that no one really supports. Or worse, no decision gets made at all, and the group misses the opportunity to take positive collective action.

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Topics: meeting design

The Root Cause of Boring, Unproductive Meetings

Oct 6, 2015 by Beatrice Briggs in tips & techniques (2 minute read)

Imagine yourself sitting in yet another mind numbing, time-wasting meeting. And then imagine that instead of thinking about all the other things you have to do when the meeting finally ends, you ask yourself “How did we get into this situation?”

Bad meetings do not just happen. They are not a curse cast upon all who dare to try to work together in groups. The root cause of boring, unproductive meetings is that those responsible for calling a meeting make this mistake: we schedule the session and then fail to plan how the group’s time will be used.

Here are some examples of convening but not planning a meeting:

  • Calling a meeting on a pre-established day and time without questioning the need or purpose for bringing the group together.
  • Inviting the same people to every meeting, regardless of the topics on the agenda.
  • Making a “laundry list” of topics and calling it an agenda.
  • Failing to share even this haphazard list with the invited participants in advance of the meeting.
  • Not considering whether the items on the agenda are relevant to everyone on the invitation list.
  • Not assigning specific time limits for each agenda item.
  • Not defining an expected outcome for each agenda item.

These common practices result in meetings that are boring, pointless, and a colossal waste of time and resources. So why are they so widespread?

A typical response from the overworked meeting convener is, “I do not have time to plan meetings. The best I can do is bring the group together and hope that we will be able to sort things out as we go.”

As someone who convenes meetings myself, I recognize that time pressure is a real constraint. I also suspect that many of these intelligent, well-meaning colleagues fail to plan effective meetings because they do not know how.

Do you have the skills you need to effectively plan a meeting?

No one ever taught them that productive meetings must include effective planning of how the group’s time will be used. Conveners have not been given the tools they need to be able to:

  • Define the purpose of each meeting.
  • Invite only those who can make a useful contribution to the conversation.
  • Prioritize the issues under discussion.
  • Design processes that will give everyone present the satisfaction of having contributed to a useful outcome.
  • Engage others on the team in the planning process.

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Topics: tips & techniques