Ever been to a meeting that made you grimace with sympathy for the meeting leader, as you witnessed him/her struggling to facilitate the group? Why did that meeting facilitator struggle? Was it lack of preparation? Perhaps, a classic case of the “wing it” meeting?
Many times, we, as facilitators, are not prepared (or ill prepared) for meetings, and that leads to some horrific results – including those feelings you experienced while watching a fellow facilitator suffer through a meeting. What are some things you’ll hear in an unprepared meeting? Look out for these words. And, don’t let this happen to you.
- “I don’t know why we’re having this meeting.” — This is something you, as the facilitator, should be able to answer. And, in fact, this is the very foundation of your meeting – the most critical thing you should state at the beginning of your meeting. At Leadership Strategies, we teach the Purpose of the meeting as the most important “P” in our “6 Ps of Preparation.” Otherwise, why would you have the meeting?
- “We’re running out of time, but I think that what we have is fine… Right?” — What if that’s wrong? What if your meeting wasn’t really over until your group walked away with “x” (whatever “x” is)? When preparing for your meeting, you should always identify what your deliverable is – what the group should have in its hands when the meeting has finished. Is it an agreement on a new policy? A completed action plan? A final committee vote? Know what that “x” is, and if you don’t have it at the end of your meeting, get consensus from the group on what to do about it next (whether it’s schedule another meeting, etc.).
- “Was she supposed to be here?” — Uh-oh. When you planned for that important group meeting, did you think about the stakeholders who needed to be involved – even those outside of your department? Part of your preparation should include this so that your group isn’t missing key faces in the room.
- “Oh, I didn’t think about that.” — Surely, you’re not expected to be a mind-reader, but we do teach our facilitators that part of their role is to be clairvoyant. Facilitators take the time to see probable issues that lie ahead and may surface during facilitated sessions. How? By doing their homework, by interviewing key stakeholders/sponsors before a meeting, by asking about their perspectives – these are all essential in your preparation. Especially in strategy work or complex project meetings, a facilitator is always prepared.
- “I don’t have an agenda prepared for this.” — Yikes. Without an agenda, how will your group stay focused? How will YOU stay focused? Many times the agenda also outlines your process and structure for facilitating the meeting. Without it, you have no navigation. And, furthermore, you don’t have your team’s buy-in to proceed with talking through the agenda that you might have prepared (in your head).
- “Did anyone remember to reserve a conference room or set up a conference call?” — The logistics of the meeting are overlooked more times than you might think. Some individuals are so focused on merely getting the meeting date set on everyone’s calendar but forget to input details like: meeting place, if special building security access is needed, if someone in the group will need to call in, etc. As you prepare for your meeting, think about how your participants will be involved, where they should gather, what challenges might arise with the meeting place, etc. Isn’t it aggravating being delayed by fifteen minutes just because you scrambled putting together a conference dial-in or finding an empty conference room at the last minute?
If you find yourself hearing (or saying!) these expressions during your meeting, take some time to better prepare for your next meeting. Use this checklist, “Meeting Preparing and Agenda Setting,” for help. And, don’t forget that effective facilitation doesn’t end with good preparation – get trained on how to execute during your meetings too.
Certified Master Facilitator Michael Wilkinson is the CEO and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies, Inc., The Facilitation Company and author of The Secrets of Facilitation 2nd Edition, The Secrets to Masterful Meetings, and 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. The company is also a leading provider of facilitation training in the United States, having trained over 18,000 individuals.
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