We often set time for a weekly or monthly meeting without giving proper thought to what needs to be accomplished. Perhaps it even becomes rote.
However, meetings are supposed to bring a set of people together for a purpose.
What are good reasons to meet?
Come to consensus about a decision,
Brainstorm new ideas,
Share a variety of perspectives,
Discuss a budget,
Review a policy,
Create a plan of action, or for implementation.
People often remark to me, “Oh, you are so good at this.” The truth is I spend a lot of time planning and thinking through a meeting beforehand, so that when I am facilitating the meeting, I’m clear about what I need to do, and it ends up looking easy.
So instead of rote, keep these ideas in mind as you prepare for your next meeting:
When something critical needs to be discussed or decided, devote the proper time to address it. Otherwise it will drag on, and you will have to continue to address it over multiple meetings. This may mean having to move less pressing issues to a future meeting.
Set clear objectives and agenda ahead of time
Meeting attendees want to be useful, engaged, and feel that their time is well spent.
Sharing your goals and agenda in advance will prepare the group to focus and participate.
Find the process that fits the purpose
Consider, “What is the most effective way to...?”
Then build your meeting with processes designed to get you there. There are wonderful processes to help you achieve every meeting goal. Whether you read a book on facilitation or take a course, your investment in learning and practicing these processes will save you time and resources down the line.
Here is an example of process and purpose:
If you are looking to get feedback on a document or a policy, have the group review the material together, and then ask a series of questions to get all perspectives. Make sure you make it easy for people to be honest and to contribute. Their ideas – even if they are different than yours- will give you insight to how others may react to your document/policy.
Two methods I use the most often are the Technology of Participation™ (ToP) Focused Conversation Method and the Carousel Method.
The ToP Focused Conversation can let a group consider essential details, offer their reaction, consider implications, and can even make recommendation or a decision. This can be done in as little as 10- 20 minutes, depending on the size of the group. This works for a small, medium or large size group.
For the Carousel Method, take flip chart paper and write a specific question or an open-ended sentence on each sheet. Post the sheets on the walls. Ask people to walk around and answer the questions right on the flip chart. It gets people up, gives them time to think on their own, and to discuss their ideas in small groups. And as a bonus result you have their own words built right in for documentation. Then review the information afterwards using a Focused Conversation.
A good meeting should be energizing. I've found traditional meetings to be so disappointing, so I was inspired to find a better way. That’s why I began to study the art of hosting or facilitating a meeting.
If you are interested in learning how to facilitate a good meeting, please join us at the ToP™ Facilitation Methods class in Philadelphia in April.