Great meetings include certain, repeatable characteristics. A high level of participation frequently indicates the opportunity for a great meeting. What encourages participation?
We share select characteristics with you through the sequence they would occur in a well-conducted meeting; namely the beginning, the middle, and the end. The following is not meant to be exhaustive, as supporting detail is found in other blogs. However, we find the following to rank among the most important items for inciting high levels of meeting participation and collaboration.
Beginning (aka Preparation) Phase
Meeting results and ownership need to be transferred to the participants from the very beginning. Optimally, meting participants should review the purpose, scope, and objectives (ie, deliverables) before the meeting begins. They need to verify that they understand and find them acceptable, or have an opportunity to provide their input to changes something before the meeting begins. They should also review the method and tools that will be used to ensure that they find the approach sound. Remember, they will be held responsible for the outcome.
A glossary or lexicon should be included in the pre-read or handout so that individuals can refer back to the operational definitions of terms as challenges arise. People within groups frequently find themselves in violent agreement with each other, and it’s imperative that all the participants agree on what is meant by the terms being used in the purpose, scope, and objectives. Typically, the glossary should be maintained by the project team, project management office, program office, or strategic center of excellence. Teams do not normally have time to argue about the difference between a vendor and a contractor or a bill and an invoice. Unless the definitions are part of the deliverable, they should be determined in advance.
When meetings or workshops are held to support projects, it’s invaluable for participants to know and understand the purpose and objectives of the project, the reason the project was approved (ie, program goals), and the goals and objectives of the mandating organization (ie, the strategic plan of the business unit and/ or enterprise). Ultimately, all arguments should be resolved by which position best supports reaching the enterprise objectives. Optimally, the meeting room should have large, visible copies of enterprise mission, values, and vision. Handout material should include the more detailed goals (ie, fuzzy and directional) objectives (ie, specific and SMART).
Biographic sketches of other meeting members can inspire empathy and understanding. With virtual meetings, be certain to include photographs that show the face behind the voice. If you provide supplemental reading material, strive to customize a cover letter for each participant highlighting the pages or sections upon which they should focus, rather than suggesting they give their entire and equal attention to everything in the handout. Prompt each subject matter expert in advance with the questions that will be raised during the meeting most pertinent to them or their role. Ask them to focus on those questions since you will turn to them for the first response when the question is raised.
Ultimately the session leader (aka facilitator) is responsible for tying together the relevancy of the issues mentioned above, known as managing the context. The session leader needs to emphasize the importance of the meeting output to the organization, hopefully expressed in terms of how many financial assets or labor hours (eg, FTE) are at risk if the meting fails.
If the session leader and the participants show up prepared, chances of success are highly amplified. The term ‘facilitate’ means to ‘make easy’ and if you embrace the suggestions above and in the next two blogs, you will see meeting participation substantially increase. More importantly, you will have properly begun transfer of ownership and responsibility from the solo session leader to the group or team, as it should be.
The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).
- The Role of Session Leader (mgrush.com/blog)
- How to Facilitate Virtual Meetings: Teleconference and VideoPresence (Part 2 of 3 – During/ Real Time) (mgrush.com/blog)
- How to Facilitate a Consensual Sphere of Concern, Influence, and Control Using the Bookend Method (mgrush.com/blog)
- How to Get a Promising Meeting to Fail (mgrush.com/blog)
- SMART Versus DUMB Criteria (mgrush.com/blog)
- How To Actively Listen (mgrush.com/blog)
- How to Analyze Brainstorming Input (continued) (mgrush.com/blog)
- How to Facilitate Requirements Gathering (mgrush.com/blog)