There are four documents each meeting leader must ensure:
- Annotated Agenda
- Slide Deck
- Output Notes
Your participants need to show up at your meeting prepared and ready to contribute. Do not assume they will. Lead them. Provide them a compelling pre-read. It should include at least the components shown below. If your pre-read is a large document, then provide a personalized cover letter asking each subject matter expert to focus on topics and pages that you have highlighted for their benefit (to spare them the obligation and time of reading the entire packaged):
Meeting Purpose, Scope, Deliverables, and Simple Agenda
EVERY meeting, even a one-hour session, needs to have an articulate purpose, boundaries (ie, scope), and either well codified outputs or a generally described outcome documents. The deliverables (or output/ outcome) describe what done looks like when the session ends. A description of the deliverables describes where the group is headed during the meeting. The agenda, hopefully structured (NOT simply a ‘discussion’; a term closely related to ‘percussion’ and ‘concussion’), shows the group how it is going to get to the deliverable, or the end of the session.
Questions to be Addressed
If you want your participants to show up prepared, help them. Agree in advance (optimally through private interviews) what questions ought be raised during your session and have them prepare response before the meeting begins. Confirm with them the validity of the questions and obtain their feedback about questions you may wish to add that your participants deem important, and perhaps missing from your original list of questions. Consider the most important reason for meetings—building consensual answers to questions important to the group.
Mission, Value, and Vision
When arguments arise, active listening should be used first to avoid people, who unknowingly, may be in violent agreement with each other. When active listening fails, sometimes due to the stubbornness of participants, an appeal must be made to WHY the meeting is being held. No one wants more meetings; they only want results that accelerate projects and activities that occur after the meeting. To reconcile arguments, be prepared to appeal to the objectives of the project, program, business unit, or enterprise that your meeting supports.
Glossary of Terms
You cannot afford to allow arguments about the meaning of terms you use and build into your preparatory efforts. For example, to some you will discover that Goals are fuzzy statements and Objectives are SMART. To others, the opposite is true. To some, Mission is why they show up and Vision is where they are going. To others, it is the opposite. Standardize your operational definitions, share them, and enforce consistent use and interpretation.
Space for Participants’ Note-taking
As a kind gesture, provide some extra space for them to take notes. It will be appreciated.
Your Personal, Annotated Agenda
Your detailed methods should be built as if you were there visualizing every step in advance. Include break out teams, team names and members, CEOs (ie, Chief Easel Operators), but most importantly, detail how you will analyze their input (ie, second activity of Brainstorming). Our typical annotated agenda runs 20 pages long, even for a three-hour session.
Provide the participants copies of the slides you use, and do not forget to include operational definitions. You don’t need our help here since this is what you do best; ie, create decks.
Meeting notes are a snap once you have a solid pre-read, annotated agenda, and slide deck. Simply drop in the content developed during the meeting alongside the content provided by your pre-read, annotated agenda, and slide; and you are ready to call it good. Congratulations.
Which of these four documents can you afford to skip? None of them of course, unless you avoid death by PowerPoint and spare them the deck by referring to content you already provided in the pre-read.
Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiative, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need.
Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills
The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, 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).
Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.