How to Interview Meeting Participants

FAST alumni know that the single most important ingredient to meeting and workshop success is thorough preparation. There is no “silver bullet” to save a session leader who is ill prepared. The most important activity while preparing for a meeting is to know where you are going—ie, ‘What is the deliverable?’ The next most important activity is interviewing the participants to begin managing their expectations and need to arrive ready to contribute and be productive.

Interview Method

Interview participants to understand as much as possible about them, the people they work with, and their business. Speak with all the participants, preferably one-on-one for about 30 minutes each. Speak with each face-to-face, or at least by way of a teleconference.

Interview Sequence

Interviewing Meeting Participants

First meet the executive sponsor, the business partners, the project team, and then the participants. Keep your interviews around twenty to thirty minutes each. Conduct the interviews privately and assure participants that their responses will be kept CONFIDENTIAL.

Interview Objectives  

Interview the participants to advance understanding:

  • To become familiar with their job, their business, and their expectations
  • To confirm who should, or should not, attend and why
  • To help them show up better prepared to contribute
  • To identify potential issues, hidden agendas, and other obstacles
  • To identify scheduling conflicts and other concerns
  • To transfer ownership of the meeting purpose, scope, and deliverables

 Interviewing Questions

The following are well-sequenced questions that you should ask. Begin each interview explaining your role and the purpose of the interview. Ask for permission to take notes. Use open-ended questions, sit back, and listen to the person—discover their value and value add to the initiative you are supporting.

  • “What do you expect from the session?”
  • “What will make the workshop a complete failure?”
  • “What should the output look like?”
  • “What problems do you foresee?”
  • “Who should attend the workshop? Who should not? Why?”
  • “What is going to be my biggest obstacle?”
  • “How does the deliverable and agenda make sense to you?”
  • “What should I have asked that I didn’t ask?”

Interviewing Focus

The precision and sequence of the questions is important. They are all open-ended. They help manage “right-to-left” thinking; ie, ‘expect’ and ‘output.’ Next they focus on the hidden politics; ie, ‘failure,’ ‘problems,’ and ‘obstacles.’ They end with a strong, closing question that emphasizes the humility of the roles of facilitator.

Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

About Facilitative Leader & Instructor
Biographic Sketch — Terrence Metz Since the end of 1999, Terrence Metz has been a founding principal partner and vice president at Morgan Madison & Company. For over twenty years, through professional and academic endeavors, Terrence has focused on improving group decision-making. His experience has proven that two important components to effective group decision-making are: 1. Higher quality information assures higher quality decisions, 2. Properly managed conflict, generates more “options” to consider—
and groups with more options are proven to make higher quality decisions. Terrence is passionate about using and teaching the FAST Facilitative Leadership Training technique so that people and teams make more informed decisions. Terrence is the lead instructor and primary curriculum developer for MG Rush Performance Learning. He earned his Six Sigma Green Belt® from Motorola University and wrote most of the existing FAST curriculum. Terrence made the FAST technique more robust by adding and enhancing decision-making tools such as PowerBalls and the FAST quantitative SWOT technique that is used worldwide by Fortune 1000 companies. He introduced the concept of holism to the field of structured facilitation as a method for keeping discussions on target and aligning deliverables throughout an organization. Since 1999, Terrence has taught over two hundred classes. With a Baccalaureate in Science from Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and a MBA from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on product/ process development and innovation. Terrence has a P&L background in capital goods markets with highly engineered-products and services (eg, Honeywell). He is an expert group facilitator, instructor, and developer of workflow processes and Voice of the Market inputs that accelerate commercial success. His engagements have included strategic development, business planning, problem-solving, continuous improvement, organizational design, process design and improvement, customer cognitivity workshops, and market-based product development and launch. His book "Change or Die: The Business Process Improvement Manual" from CRC Press was published internationally in 2012. Terrence completed additional graduate work in inter-cultural decision-making processes at Marquette University, is a former board member of the Product Development Managers’ Association, and a long-time member of the IAF (International Association of Facilitators), MFNA (Midwest Facilitators Network Association), TMAC (Technology Management Association of Chicago) and WFS (World Future Society). Most importantly, Terrence is an effective listener and equally adept at teaching FAST classes as well as galvanizing consensus around complex issues for organizations and groups.

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