By Caitlin Murray
We’ve all attended our share of meetings that suck, even when trainers get together to plan training. It can feel like a waste of time and energy. Despite what you might think, these sessions are not pointless; they just aren’t being planned well or maybe even planned at all.
Just like most teachers can’t show up to teach a class without a lesson plan, you can’t show up at a meeting you are leading with no plan and expect it to be productive and engaging. Luckily, planning a meeting that doesn’t suck is easy with just a few preparation steps and basic facilitation skills.
Keep reading for six easy tips you can use to improve your meetings right away.
To have a productive meeting or planning session, everyone from the facilitator or trainer to the participants needs to be clear on the objective of the meeting. If you’re leading the session, just the simple act of writing down your outcomes will make planning easier and more intentional.
Make sure to communicate these outcomes to participants in an email beforehand so everyone is on the same page.
Before you start anything, introduce yourself and clarify your role in the meeting, even if everyone knows you already. Review the outcomes and agenda for the meeting, as well as any meeting agreements you want in place.
Don’t forget to introduce anyone supporting your meeting, such as a tech host. Then ask participants to introduce themselves and state their hopes for the session.
Whether it’s the flow for the entire meeting or a specific activity, we love open, refine and close, which is a variation of diverge, groan-zone and converge from Sam Kaner’s Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making.
Start with “opening,” which may look like brainstorming, followed by “refining,” such as sorting ideas, and finally “closing,” which could be coming to a decision or defining next steps.
One activity alone can often take 45 minutes to two hours depending on the topic and group. In addition to that time, try to allocate five to 15 minutes for the opening and closing of each activity.
You may realize you only have time for one or two activities, so be ready to condense your outcomes or ask for more time as needed.
In plenary discussions, the loudest two or three voices dominate, so you could waste time while missing out on valuable insight from the rest of the group.
Use small group breakout sessions for meetings of eight or more people and leave time for briefouts at the end. You’ll save time, and it’s easier to see commonalities among smaller groups.
At the end of every meeting, it is essential to review and clarify next steps and who is responsible for them. This is the part of the meeting people will remember the most; use this time intentionally, so participants feel productive and confident moving forward.
It’s OK not to feel complete on a topic if you know how and when the discussion will continue.
Caitlin Murray is the editor and producer of the This Meeting Sucks podcast. Email Caitlin at email@example.com.