How do we avoid bad meetings? By knowing what the goal of the meeting is, designing an agenda to meet it, and communicating both to the group.
The Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making identifies seven different types of meeting goals:
- Sharing Information
- Obtaining Input
- Advancing the Thinking
- Making Decisions
- Improving Communication
- Building Capacity
- Building Community
Each of these have distinct patterns of interaction and information flow. They require different types of involvement from the participants. The same kinds of activities will not work equally well for them.
And speaking of activities, it’s important to remember that open discussion — the most common meeting activity — is only one of the many possible ways to structure group work. Among the alternatives are:
- Presentations and reports
- Structured go-arounds
- Individual writing
- Listing ideas
- Working in small groups
Setting the stage for a good meeting requires picking the right activities for the meeting goal.
Finally, once these details have been figured out, the participants need to know about them. If someone comes into an Advancing the Thinking meeting expecting to be on the receiving end of Sharing Information, he or she isn’t going to be well-equipped to contribute. And if someone thinks that the group will be Making Decisions when instead they’re going to be Building Community, the potential for unnecessary frustration is high.
I’ve seen how these techniques have improved some of the meetings I’ve facilitated. The challenge for me now to is to practice these skills consistently and teach them to the team so that we can make all of the meetings we’re in better.
UpdateFitness: Two hours of tossing concrete around in the garden
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 303 words, 375 seven-day average, 269 average, 38709 total, 709 words past the goal for the week; 11-day streak