Everyone knows they are supposed to have an agenda for a meeting. That includes you, right? But did you know you also need a meeting facilitation plan?
Agendas aren’t enough
An agenda is necessary, but not sufficient for success. A decent agenda communicates a few important bits of information to participants:
- When and where the meeting will happen.
- Why the meeting is necessary.
- The topics that will be addressed during the meeting.
- What the participants should do to come prepared. (You get extra credit if your agenda does this).
The question you must answer
The question an agenda doesn’t answer is the one every successful meeting leader needs to address:
You need a plan
Participants need an agenda. You need a detailed plan that maps the quickest and easiest way to reach specific objectives.
Let me give you an example. Imagine a meeting to develop cost-savings recommendations. The agenda shows three activities:
- Review the current financial situation.
- Make a list of potential cost-savings ideas.
- Decide which ideas to recommend.
The meeting doesn’t go well. The group produces only a few weak ideas, and an argument breaks out about which to recommend.
Your plan solves the problem
Now it’s your turn to plan this meeting. Here’s how to create significantly better results.
First, make sure the meeting participants are clear about what they are supposed to accomplish. It might appear obvious that the goal is to produce recommendations. That’s not specific enough. Your plan will change based on how you answer these questions:
- Should recommendations be prioritized?
- Do the recommendations need to include forecasted cost savings?
- Should we include information about effort required to implement them?
Second, consider potential problems and think about your process options. Here are some questions that might help you do that:
- Should background information be offered before or during the meeting?
- How can I make it safe for people to participate?
- If there isn’t consensus, how will we form a recommendation?
Here’s how it looks
I recently led a planning meeting for a group. There were two agenda items that needed to happen before lunch.
- The current situation
- Identifying the big issues
That, along with the time estimates are what the participants would have had on their agenda.
Here’s what I had in my plan.
A complicated 4-hour meeting may have a one page agenda, but it likely has at least eight pages of detailed notes that help me know how to move the group toward its goals.
Once you think your plan is as good as it’s going to get, solicit some meeting plan feedback, and then make it even stronger.
Create your meeting facilitation plan
Most people make an agenda, and that’s the extent of their planning. That’s fine for the participants, but not for you, the leader. Identify the right questions, put together a solid plan, and then work it to produce results.
Your meeting participants are counting on you to lead them. Figure out the route before they start their journey.
Want to know a lot of tips to improve your meeting performance? Grab a copy of my e-book, Meeting Hero. You can read it right at your desk.