The 5 P’s of Preparation

Sections of this topic

    Good Tuesday afternoon to you! It’s been awhile since I’ve had the pleasure of writing for you all and I’m very glad to be be back at it. Today we are going to explore one of the most essential set of things to consider at the very beginning of a facilitated session – The 5 P’s of Preparation.

    While purpose is the key element of preparation, there are several other components as well. What does it take to be prepared for a facilitated interaction? Facilitators know that whether they are preparing for running a task force meeting, delivering a presentation or meeting with a customer, the secret to preparation is the same: they must achieve a clear understanding of the “5 P’s.”

    • The “Purpose” explains the overall aim. Why are we holding this session?
    • The “Product” defines the items that must be produced to achieve the purpose. What do we want to have when we are done?
    • The “Participants” identifies the people who need to be involved. Who are the participants and what are their perspectives?
    • The “Probable Issues” defines the concerns that will likely arise. What are the probable issues that will need to be addressed?
    • The “Process” details the steps that will be taken to create the product, taking into account the Participants and Probable Issues. How will we go about achieving the purpose, given the product desired, the participants and the probable issues we will face?

    Of course there can be numerous logistics involved in preparing for a facilitated meeting, such as timing, location, materials, etc. However, it is important to be aware of these five critical steps. Facilitators tend to focus on these elements to gain a clear understanding of what is to be accomplished, why and how.

    Applying the 5 P’s

    The previous section described the importance of understanding the 5 P’s. But how does one go about defining these elements? Who is responsible for providing the answers to the 5 P’s? As you will see, it depends.

    Applying the 5 P’s to a Meeting

    If you are the meeting leader, then prior to the meeting you will need to identify the purpose of the meeting and the desired products. Understanding these two will help you determine the appropriate participants. As you consider the topic of the meeting, the participants and past history related to the topic, the probable issues will likely become apparent. Once these other four Ps are known, you can then create the process (an agenda) for the meeting. The process will need to achieve the purpose, create the product and cover the issues you identified. As you will see in a subsequent chapter, “The Secrets of Start a Facilitated Session,” it is important that you confirm the process with the meeting participants at the very beginning of the meeting.

    If you are facilitating a meeting for someone else, the person who answers most of the 5 P’s will likely be the “sponsor” of the activity. Just as with the description above of managing a task force, the sponsor can typically provide answers for the purpose, product, participants and probable issues. You as the meeting facilitator are responsible for determining the process.


    For more resources, see the Library topic Facilitation.


    Michael Wilkinson is the CEO and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies, Inc., “The Facilitation Company” and author of the forthcoming “The Secrets of Facilitation 2nd Edition”, “The Secrets to Masterful Meetings”, and the brand new “The Executive Guide to Facilitating Strategy.” Leadership Strategies is a global leader in facilitation services, providing companies with dynamic professional facilitators who lead executive teams and task forces in areas like strategic planning, issue resolution, process improvement and others. They are also a leading provider of facilitation training in the United States.