Strategies for Great Meetings

Be SWIFT – Eliminate Time Wasters!

Meeting time is valuable time. As facilitators, there are many ways in which we can ensure that meeting time is productively focused on the purpose and outcomes. Below are common time wasters and a link to alternative strategies to enhance how the session is managed:

  • Starting late and waiting until everyone has gathered.
  • Writing points on a flipchart while participants passively wait for instructions or listing of group output.
  • Inviting people to volunteer for an activity, and then waiting for somebody to step forward ‘in the moment’.
  • Forging ahead when the group is tired or sluggish.
  • Taking time to hear the reports back from all subgroups.

Call to Action: Enhance your facilitation skills today; check out our Masterful Facilitation Institute courses.


Why Are You Meeting?

“Clarity of meeting purpose is a sweet weapon against confusion.” — Toke Palludan Moeller.”

Groups meet not only to get work done, but also to build relationships and the social capital required for successful collaboration after the meeting. However briefly, this human need for interaction with others should always be factored into your meeting.

Remember though, that the key to focused and productive meetings is the reason you are meeting in the first place. Be clear on your meeting purpose from the start. Generally, most meetings fall under three broad types of purposes:

1. To inform and update participants. (Typical Length: .5 to 1.5 hours).

2. To obtain input and/or generate consensus around issues, problems and plans. (Typical Length: 2-3+ hours; sometimes over several weeks/months).

3. To develop and implement strategy and change. (Typical Length: 1-3 days annually; 1-3 hours quarterly).

As you plan your meeting, ask yourself this question: “Why are we meeting and what do we hope will be different as a result?” Having this clarity will greatly assist you in planning your agenda and facilitation processes.

Start your meeting off with a clear explanation of that purpose to participants, for example: “When you walk out, you’ll be current on the status of our top priority projects; your ideas are essential to the resolution of this issue; and, finally, we need to align on new future directions and the plans to achieve them.” If you do need to meet, then being clear on your meeting purpose is the first step in achieving focused and productive meetings.

Call to Action:

The Masterful Facilitation Institute exists to build your confidence and skills as an effective facilitator so you can design and facilitate great meetings – every time, for any purpose. Read the path to Effective Facilitation to get started now.

What A Great Meeting!

People meet for all sorts of reasons.greatmtg Organizations bring people together to accomplish all sorts of outcomes. But, not all of those meetings would be dubbed productive nor would all the participants proclaim, “Wow! What a great meeting.” In fact, it’s probably quite the opposite.

Great meetings take work. The mistake most of us make is we assume we can just ‘wing it’. Not so. The more seemingly effortless, easy and natural the meeting; the more likely a good deal of preparation happened beforehand to achieve that. Continue reading “What A Great Meeting!”

Facilitating Complex Sessions

blog pic

Seeking to become a more agile and professional facilitator? 

Perhaps you are assisting a group over time to resolve issues, generate new directions, improve team performance or develop innovative solutions. What can you expect as you scope out and design more complex facilitated sessions?

MORE COMPLEXITY:  Usually a greater diversity of perspectives and views must be considered, balanced and reconciled, before it is possible to generate consensus and commitment. You’ll need to design processes to build mutual understanding between partial views.

HIGHER STAKES: The outcomes of such meetings matter to the organization’s goals. Success is important, and so is the downside of not succeeding. Make sure your pre-session scoping is rigorous and involves more than just your client.

DESIGN MATTERS: Your facilitation must rely on a thoughtful process to help the group achieve desired outcomes. It is essential for you to have the right process framework to follow, and to know where you are in the process. There is a sequence to what questions must be answered before other work can be tackled.  Professional facilitators invest as much as 2-4 hours in design work for every hour of facilitated group process.

LONGER MEETINGS: As a result of all the above, more time is needed to achieve desired outcomes, extending to several days, and sometimes weeks and months.  Having an expanded facilitation toolkit is essential to your nimbleness and ability to keep sessions productive, and participants engaged and energized.

Mission and Values

Strategic Planning often begins with hindsight looking to the past to discover what your organization, business or group historically set out to achieve in its noblest purpose. The foundation of who you are today rests on the journey you have taken so far. Take time to harvest stories that reveal the very best of who you are – therein lies your purpose, core mission and guiding values.

In this first phase of Strategic Planning, several sub-questions are addressed, two of which management guru Peter Drucker has flagged as the most important questions to ask your organization: Continue reading “Mission and Values”

Do We Need to Meet?

Ever see or hear this type of exchange at the water cooler?  The sad truth is that if meetings have a bad name, it is often because there isn’t a good reason for one.


As a meeting convener, your first task is to explore if the desired outcomes could be achieved through a more effective avenue.

For information-sharing meetings, here are nine effective meeting tips you might want to consider: Continue reading “Do We Need to Meet?”

Secret Meeting Weapons – Clear Roles and a Timer

(or how Roles & Timers can save your bacon…!)

In our worst nightmares as facilitators, we picture ourselves facing groups with participants who challenge us, act out, and completely derail our sessions.

Fortunately, the good news is that almost every meeting conflict can be prevented before the meeting even begins.

One of the easiest and most powerful ways to avoid problems in the meeting is to ask small groups to self-manage their own process through clear roles. Read More….

Meeting: Who Needs Them?

We all do!

Whether you are an executive, a manager, supervisor or project team leader, chances are that meetings are a significant part of your day. However, poor meetings may be the norm you are settling for rather than “Great Meetings”.

According to a recent survey of 300 senior Canadian managers, their number one pet peeve with meetings is either that they either start late or finish past the indicated time. Managers also begrudge being brought together when their presence and participation is not key to the meeting outcomes.  The use of PDAs and laptops for non-meeting related activities, along with people interupting one another follow closely in the list of of meeting issues. Accountemps identifies five signs that your meeting could be a time waster, and offers suggestions for how to correct it.  (see Accountemps Survey – Identifies Managers’ Biggest Meeting Pet Peeves).

Despite highly developed technical, professional and specialized skills, most managers do not have the necessary meeting facilitation competencies to design and lead focused and effective meetings. If this is true for you or your staff, have a look at our Masterful Facilitation Institute courses. Our in-house facilitation skill building programs are guaranteed to enhance the productivity of all your meetings.

Mastering Great Meetings

Follow the Masterful Facilitation Institute’s Great Meetings Formula to confidently ensure your meeting success …

= Great Outcomes (time-effective, focused, productive, broad buy-in) are the result of

+ Great Process (engaged, focused, creative, good pace/energizing) + that fosters

+ Great Interactions (safe, respectful, positive, builds common ground and learning)

… and attend to these six keys to masterful facilitation:

  • Masterful Agenda
  • Answer Questions on Their Mind
  • Strategies for Functional Behaviour
  • Transform Conflict into Creativity
  • End with Clarity/on Time
  • Report for Follow-Up

Read more about keys to masterful facilitation….