A parking lot (or bike rack, holding tank, etc.) is a metaphorical place to record important ideas, conversations, etc. that need to be addressed—but not at this meeting. This is a technique that helps keep the meeting from being derailed by conversations that are important, but not germane to the meeting at hand. When the group starts to discuss something that may be connected to the topic, but not essential to this meeting, simply redirect it to the parking lot. It is helpful to record parking lot items on flip charts or whiteboards, making them visible to participants. Be sure to address next steps for parking lot items at the end of the meeting.
Use the Parking Lot Method for easy flowing conversations and meetings.
Have you ever been in a meeting or conversation in which the conversation starts to stray off course? Have you ever left a meeting wondering what you have actually accomplished in that hour? Or intended to talk to someone about specific plans on one topic, and ran out of time without really discussing it?
Bonus Tip: If you are the meeting owner, leader, and facilitator—try holding your opinions until last. Once the leader weighs in on an issue, many people become reluctant to offer a different perspective!