Great Leadership

How to hold meetings and workshops on sensitive topics

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Emma Cullen2018-11-19
Most of us don’t enjoy talking about sensitive topics in a business or learning environment. However, sometimes it can be necessary to hold difficult meetings and workshops. Perhaps an incident has occurred that needs to be rectified, or maybe you have to teach students about something important. Whatever it is, by having a strong plan in place you can make sure that the sensitive topic is covered in a thorough and respectful way. Continue reading for some tips on how to hold a meeting or workshop on a sensitive topic.

Manage your own anxieties and feelings

The role of the facilitator is important when it comes to workshops and meetings on sensitive topics as such sessions can be emotional, and some sensitive topics can be difficult to talk about. Whilst it is natural to feel some anxiety around holding a session on a sensitive topic, as the facilitator, you will be expected to overcome any nerves and proceed with your meeting in a professional manner. Take a look at this useful blog post that explores public speaking anxiety on a general level, but can also be applied to situations where sensitive subjects are being discussed.

Set an agenda

As with any other type of meeting or workshop, you should set an agenda. This will let the participants know what to expect during the session. By setting a clear agenda you will make sure that the session stays focused and on track. Here is an example of an agenda that can be used during workshops and meetings on sensitive topics:

Workshop agenda

Workshop agenda

Create clear discussion guidelines

As well as encouraging discussion, you should also create some guidelines for the discussion. The aim of the guidelines is to make sure that all participants conduct themselves in a professional and respectful way. As the facilitator, you should also follow these discussion guidelines. Here is an example template of what such guidelines might include:

Discussion guidelines

Discussion guidelines

Communicate clearly

Whilst clear communication is always important when facilitating a meeting or workshop, you should be even more mindful of it when you are hosting sessions on sensitive topics. A good way to check to make sure that you are communicating clearly to your participants is to use check-in questions during the session, and then end with a Q&A session at the end. This will give you as the facilitator the opportunity to see if participants understand, and it will give participants the chance to ask you questions. This will help to prevent any miscommunications during the sessions. Use these templates to ensure clear communication:

Workshop - do you understand?

Workshop - do you understand?

Ask reflective questions

In order to make sure that your participants get more out of the meeting or workshop, ask them reflective questions throughout the session. Of course, it can be difficult to reflect on sensitive topics in a group, but making the reflection anonymous (using tools such as Mentimeter) can give everyone the opportunity reflect without feeling nervous or embarrassed.

End the session in a positive way

After discussing a sensitive topic, try to end the session on a positive and light-hearted note. This could be a simple thank you, or how about trying a light reflection question?

Meetings and workshops on sensitive topics may be a challenge, but with the right approach and tools, you can make sure that the information you need to relay is shared in the right way.

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