In my job as a facilitator I have organized quite a number of international meetings, events and conference calls. My experience is that the success of a meeting depends more than 60% on its preparation. A well prepared, and facilitated, meeting most likely will be a successful one. Please find below my 10 steps to facilitate a successful meeting:
- Preparation is everything. As mentioned before, key to the success of the meeting is it’s preparation. Rule number 1 is to spend at least the double amount of time to prepare than you plan for the meeting itself. So if you have a 1 day meeting. Plan to prepare at least 2 days, preferable more of course.
- Make sure you take care of the logistics well in advance. Secure a meeting room with a window to let some daylight in. Take care of the technical equipment such as projectors and network connections, lunch and refreshments. If needed reserve enough hotel rooms. Send out the invitations well in advance and do not forget to mention the address of the meeting location! Make sure the begin and end time of the meeting is in the first paragraph and ask people not to leave before the meeting has ended as people have the tendency to reserve their returning flights too close to the meeting end time.
- Co-develop the agenda with all participants. Make sure you plan enough time for each topic. Also build a natural flow into the agenda and do not end with the key topic at the end of your meeting, as you may need the time if some of the other topics take longer than expected.
- Setup a conference call with all participants before the meeting to discuss meeting objectives and confirm the agenda. Also agree that participants prepare themselves for the meeting. Send out pre-reads if needed.
- Make sure there is enough off-topic time before, after and in between official meeting time. Some participant may see each other for the first time and value the time they can spend together to discuss various topics. If you have a multi day meeting, plan well for dinner and do not go to that trendy place where the music is played to loud and people cannot understand each other.
- Do not rush into the meeting. Give participants time to introduce themselves and their objectives.
- Make sure each topic will lead to agreement (or agree to not agree) and some action items. Nothing is more depressing than a 2 hour discussion without any real outcome.
- As mentioned in a previous post on the Skilled Facilitator approach, synchronize your thinking with your actions. This is especially true for a facilitator or meeting leader. You are not running the meeting as a one man show, you are in service of the participants! Please also recognizes that each participant shares a piece of the truth, as everyone is right from their point of view. Be compassionate.
- Running a meeting is hard work. Make sure you have had enough sleep! Your level of enthusiasm and energy is contagious. If you are energetic, the participants will too. Check and take care of the energy level of all participants. Plan to have have some energizers available if needed.
- A good close of the meeting is as important as a good start. Plan enough time to go around the meeting room and ask participants if they met their objectives, what was successful and what can be improved the next time. Do not fear their honest opinion, every meeting is a new opportunity for you to learn.
Read the follow-up article: Murphy’s Law and the things to avoid when organizing a meeting