Facilitation Friday #40: 10 Tips for Better Meetings

It’s no surprise that Death by Meeting is one of the more popular business books given how we experience so many poorly designed and/or facilitated gatherings.  Great meetings maximize individuals’ contributions and commitments to produce desired results.  That simple.  That challengingHere are 10 tips from my experience designing and facilitating meetings.
  1. Effective meetings (face-to-face or virtual) are part of a horizontal series of activities designed to produce results and include appropriate pre- and post- work and connections.
  2. A meeting’s desired outcomes should drive its format, length, and design.  As a result an organization is likely to have several meeting templates or archetypes that must be articulated and understood by its members.  Different meeting purposes require different designs.
  3. A meeting’s environment (room set and more) should support the desired results of the meeting whenever possible.  Different results require different environments.
  4. Improving meetings requires evaluating them.  At minimum, meetings should regularly gather participant responses to these three simple questions: (1) what percentage of the meeting did you find to be productive? (2) did the meeting design elicit the full contributions you were capable of making? (3) what one thing would have made the meeting even more valuable for those involved?  Collecting this data over time will reveal what meetings are seen as valuable and which meeting leaders seem to do a better job.  You can then use that information to improve your overall meeting capabilities.
  5. The agenda and any advance information require thoughtful attention and intentional design so that they fully support the meeting objectives and help prepare participants to fully contribute to the discussions and decisions the meeting’s desired results require.  Think more about how to present the information based on how the attendees best process information and make decisions.
  6. An effective meeting requires participants’ commitment to shared norms and agreements about how they will engage with each other.
  7. You can’t effectively facilitate the process of a meeting if you also plan on being an active participant in its content deliberations.  Leading a meeting differs from facilitating a meeting.  The more you want/need to contribute to the meeting conversation, the less likely you should also facilitate it.
  8. Facilitation is a learned skill.  Therefore, individuals whose responsibilities include facilitating meetings should appropriately develop their capacity and competency to do so.  By gathering the evaluation data mentioned earlier you can learn who may need additional support.
  9. A meeting must allow adequate time at its end to review discussions and decisions, confirm next steps and individual responsibilities, and review any “parked” items for further action.
  10. Meeting follow-up should include “minutes in minutes,” as well as a more detailed summary to support the plan of work being implemented. 
What's a no-nonsense meeting facilitation reminder you'd add to this list?
Each Friday in 2012, I have been writing about facilitation of meetings, strategy sessions, and workshops.  Find other posts by searching for the tag facilitationfriday.  

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1 comment:

Avi Kaye said...

Excellent post (and highly enjoyable book :))
On the simplest level, meetings that don't have
1. An agenda (or at bare minimum, a goal)
2. Minutes taken and sent afterwards (so that tasks and decisions are noted)
3. Follow up meetings scheduled (so you can track the meeting's outcome, as we posted about here)