30
Nov
15

The circle of [meetings] life: 4 steps to facilitate the most productive meeting ever

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Last month, I had the opportunity to present a session on meeting management (e.g., a staff meeting, a committee meeting or a board meeting) to a group of volunteer leaders. We started by viewing the following (hilarious!) YouTube video depicting every meeting ever.

After debriefing the video, which included a discussion of many of the personalities/bad habits represented (e.g., The Time Nazi, Get Here When You Can Guy and The Negator), we launched into my four steps for facilitating the most productive meeting ever (which you may find helpful in managing your own meetings).

Step 1: Create and launch an effective meeting agenda.

  • The Circle of [Meetings] Life must begin somewhere
  • Agenda should be drafted/distributed a minimum of one week out
  • For the first “formal” agenda, plan for 30-60 minutes of prep
  • Follow the template:
    • Organization
    • Committee/task force/meeting name
    • Date
    • Start and end times
    • Location/dial-in information
    • Welcome
    • Attendance
    • Content
    • Parking lot
    • Adjourn
  • Clarify meeting goals/objectives
  • Be thorough – amass all possible discussion items
  • Consolidate agenda items/content for efficiency
  • Be clear about the pre-work:
    • Ask participants to review the agenda
    • Ask participants for additional agenda items
    • Ask participants to come prepared with responses, decisions, ideas, examples and the like

Step 2: Examine the role of meeting facilitator.

  • Attend to logistics prior to the meeting
  • Learn to be cognizant both of your role as facilitator and of your environment
  • Start the meeting on time
  • Have a welcome prepared (to prevent rambling)
  • Take roll call
    • In person: Allow participants to say their names aloud in a logical manner around the room (perhaps clockwise)
    • On phone: Call out participant names in alpha order
  • Dig into the content swiftly (within five minutes of the start of the meeting)
  • Add off-topic questions/comments to the parking lot and return to them at the end of the meeting
  • Be aware of your environment and truly facilitate/drive the meeting forward
    • Time – consider how much time you think each section of the agenda will take and note these times on your copy of the agenda; move conversations forward that seem to be taking too long or are “stuck”
    • Participation – ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate in the meeting, either by round robin or by calling on quiet participants
    • Action items – as decisions are made, ensure the following questions are answered:
      • What is the action to be taken?
      • Who is to complete it?
      • By when?
  • Be aware of/handle distractors:
    • Thank them for their comments
    • Provide feedback, if appropriate
    • Redirect the conversation
  • Establish the next meeting date/time or commit to sending a Doodle immediately following the meeting
  • Return to the parking lot, time permitting
  • Thank everyone for their participation before adjourning
  • Try to end the meeting early by 5-10 minutes; this will allow everyone time to start in on their action items

Step 3: Identify strategies for writing clear and timely minutes.

  • Minutes should be drafted/distributed the same day as the meeting
  • For the first “formal” minutes, plan for 30 minutes (write this time into your calendar as if it were a meeting)
  • Use your agenda as the template
  • Take draft minutes during the meeting
  • If you’re facilitating a majority of the meeting, identify someone else who can take notes
  • Following the meeting, clean up the minutes and edit out superfluous information
  • Highlight all action items – what, who, when; consider different colors for different meeting participants
  • Ensure meeting goals/objectives have been met
  • Be clear about the post-work:
    • Ask participants to review the minutes
    • Ask participants to complete their assigned action items within the designated timeframes
    • Ask participants to add the next meeting to their calendars

Step 4: Describe a successful post-meeting routine focused on action.

  • Serve as a good role model by completing your action items timely
  • Determine the priority of the remaining action items and follow-up accordingly:
    • Extremely important action items – add to your calendar and follow up with the owner if not completed
    • Less important action items – allow the participants to be accountable to one another
  • Draft/distribute the next meeting agenda
  • The Circle of [Meetings] Life begins again…
What strategies have you found most successful in managing The Circle of [Meetings] Life? What tips or tricks have you found most valuable in facilitating the most productive meeting ever?

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meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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