Better meetings are our specialty, but you do not need to be an expert for your meetings to shine. In fact, we have three simple ideas that help guide our meeting design process and we invite you to try them.
1. Great meetings must always start with a clear statement of what results you are striving for. We use an objectives-based approach to help our clients understand exactly what they want to see happen as a result of bringing people together. Objectives can be as simple as “we agree to make this change” or as complex as “we create a shared understanding of the landscape we are working in.” Recently, our newest senior facilitator, Brooking Gatewood, has introduced an outstanding way to get at desired results. She co-creates, with her clients, a continuum of success for a meeting or a process that defines failure, minimum success, target success, and epic success. However you get there, the starting point for outstanding meetings is a clear and defined purpose.
2. Once you are clear about purpose, it is time to start thinking about agendas. But before you get too far, stop and consider what makes a really effective meeting. In our experience, most meetings need to address three core functions:
- Networking: this is the part of your meeting where you are connecting members on a personal and professional level. This is often the part of meetings that people like the most and where the most unexpected results emerge. We use ‘information shares’ in various forms as one approach to help groups connect and exchange network information that helps them succeed.
- Learning: consciously or not, almost every meeting has a learning component. When we can make this more explicit, we are often able to create a richer environment for creativity. Learning does not mean teaching, however. While we, at times, introduce methods or frameworks to increase the skills of groups we work with, more of our practice is focused on peer-learning and is accomplished in small group dialogues and with approaches that focus on effective listening.
- Action: in our world, this is what people usually think of as success. We hear frequently from clients and participants in our work, “but what are we going to do?” This is natural response to both our busy lives and the pressure many of us feel about making change. We feel it too! But we often ask groups to slow down in order to speed up. Action can be an agreement to slow down and really learn something about what we want to change. That said, every meeting must convey a sense of action to keep people engaged.
3. Finally, once you have purpose and meeting functions outlined, we encourage you to think about the beginnings and ends of your meetings. How we start our meetings sets the tone for everything we do. If you continually start your meetings 10 minutes late, you will train your participants to come late. If you start your meeting with a personal check-in, you will begin to develop relationships in the group that will pay dividends down the road. Similarly, how you end your meetings has tremendous impact on the perceptions people have about the meeting. We like to provide a strong recap of the accomplishments of the meeting and then give participants a chance to share a takeaway or reflection from the meeting. We call this process of opening and closing the meeting ‘setting the container. ‘ Strong containers make for strong meetings.
We believe great meetings can have big impacts. Creating these meetings can be as simple as purpose, function, and container. 1, 2, 3 and away you go!