Once you have clearly articulated the meeting’s purpose and objectives, it is time to design the agenda. The key word here is design. Creating a meeting that is engaging and productive requires more than simply jotting down a few topic areas—it requires being creative and thoughtful about the “how” of the discussions. Think of meetings as a series of conversations in which the participants must engage in order to accomplish the purpose.
What conversations need to take place in order to accomplish our purpose?
In what order do we need to have these conversations?
What is the goal of each conversation?
What is the best way to conduct each conversation?
This is where a little “art” comes in. Be creative about how you conduct the conversations. Don’t just rely on introducing the topic and waiting for folks to chime in. There are many tools and techniques you can use to tap into the wisdom of your participants—all your participants, not just the most vocal ones. Techniques can range from simple “round-robins” where you go around the room and hear from everyone to more elaborate conversation structures like SWOT Analysis where participants identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Specific tools and techniques are readily available online.
Here are a few to get you started:
Seeds for Change: https://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/tools.pdf
University of Wisconsin: http://learningforsustainability.net/facilitation/
New Directions: http://www.ndcollaborative.com/services/facilitate/
Finally, create a meeting timeline based on the conversations you intend to facilitate. Keep your meeting tight, focused, and as short and as efficient as possible.
**Meetings cost money!* Using people’s time at work is not free for the organization. Use a meeting cost calculator to figure out how much your meetings cost.