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One difference between high performance groups and normal or under-performing groups of people is the perspective embraced by the participants during meetings and workshops. Most participants attend sessions with concern over What is in it for me?

That is neither the right attitude nor the right question. What they should ask is “What do you need or want from me (so that we can get done faster)?” What you should be encouraging is participant preparation.

It Is NOT What is in it for me? Rather, What do you need or want from me?

Participant Preparation — What Do You Need from Me?

As facilitator or session leader, it is virtually impossible to shift their attitude at the start of a meeting. To cause a shift in participant thinking, attitude, and behavior requires clear and two-way communications before the meeting begins.

Participant Preparation — What Does DONE Look Like!

Most meetings (at least the good ones) typically result in Action Plans and agreed upon roles and responsibilities for making things happen. Because we expect to hold the participants accountable for their follow-up, get them involved before the meeting starts to understand and agree to the Purpose, Scope, Deliverables, and Simple Agenda for the meeting.

You have every right to expect participants to show up prepared.  As session leader, it is your responsibility to define “prepared.” How can participants arrive prepared if they do not know the purpose of the meeting before it starts? How can participants stay focused and complete on time if they do not understand the scope of the meeting (as discrete from the scope of the project the meeting may be supporting)? What can you do to get your participants prepared faster?  Do they know “what done looks like (ie, deliverable)”? How can participants agree to follow-up assignments if they are not permitted to provide their input, clarifications, and calibrations about HOW they are going to get done on time (ie, the Agenda)?

Participant Preparation — If It Was Simple, We Wouldn’t Meet

Ultimately the reason for most meetings and workshops is that we need consensual answers to relatively complex questions. If the questions are simple, typically we do not need a meeting nor are their consensual challenges. Knowing that effective meetings develop consensual answers to questions and problems, the session leader must prepare and know in advance of the meeting, the questions that need to be answered.

Once developed and understood, do not hide the questions to be asked in a meeting. Share them in advance. Since select subject matter experts (ie, participants) likely provide input on questions that are ‘closer to home.’ You can highlight the questions on an individual basis and explain to each participants that you expect them to think in advance about their responses. Explain that when the questions(s) is asked that you have highlighted for them to consider, you expect them to take the lead and be among the first to offer up a perspective.

It’s not easy to run a successful meeting. That is why many meetings fail or frail. Your job is to make sure the meeting or workshop is off and running the moment you start. The only way to ensure that level of productivity is to prepare your participants in advance.


Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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