Meetings with large groups of people (especially consensus-building meetings) often work better if they are facilitated (that is, run) by someone who does not hold a stake in the outcome of the discussions. This facilitator can design and run a process that encourages people to work effectively together on the agenda. A facilitator will help the group get to know each other (through “ice-breaking” exercises), will work with them to set an agenda and ground rules, and then will direct and focus the discussion so that the agenda is accomplished.
Facilitators usually will take care to include all participants in the discussion (even ones who might otherwise remain silent), and try to get the group to develop consensus on as many issues as possible. Brainstorming techniques utilizing white boards and flips charts are often used to create a visual while facilitating. The facilitator (or an assisting “recorder”) will write down the highlights of each new point on newsprint and will tape full sheets up to the wall all around the room. This creates a shared, visual record of the meeting, which can then often be condensed into areas of agreement.