94 Different Types of Meeting Purposes Based on More than One Dozen Factors


While by no means ‘exhaustive’, we researched and assembled various meeting types from dozens of sources, too many to provide attribution for a brief blog (write us if you want more detail). We discovered it somewhat humorous that the world does not agree on the definition of a ‘type.’ We discovered meeting types are stratified by:

Illustration of the Author After Completing This Article

Illustration of the Author After Completing This Article

  • Audience (eg, shareholder vs. stakeholder)
  • Deliverable (output)
  • Location (onsite vs. offsite)
  • Meeting leader role (manager vs. facilitator)
  • Outcome (desired)
  • Resource (eg, production vs. project)
  • Rules (eg, open vs. private)
  • Size (quantity of participants and size of venue)
  • Style (eg, face to face vs. virtual)
  • Timing (variations included chronology, duration, frequency, and preparation time)
  • Topic (eg, financial review vs. party), and
  • Variants that probably us

Some sources provided context and justified their topology. We especially love the following comment because it is so definitive, albeit wrapped in truth (source-Seth Godin):

“There are three types of meetings. Meetings are marketing in real time with real people. (A conference is not a meeting. A conference is a chance for a circle of people to interact). There are only three kinds of classic meetings:

  1. This is a meeting where attendees are informed about what is happening (with or without their blessing). While there may be a facade of conversation, it’s primarily designed to inform.
  2. This is a meeting where the leader actually wants feedback or direction or connections. You can use this meeting to come up with an action plan, or develop a new idea, for example.
  3. This is a meeting where the other side is supposed to say yes but has the power to say no.”

—OR—

“While there are a variety of reasons for call group meeting (some of which have little to do with decision making or problem solving), for our purposes we will categorize decision-making meetings into one of the following.

  1. Strategy
  2. Problem solving
  3. Operational decisions
  4. Evaluation”

—OR—

“There are six types of meetings:

  1. Organizational meetings;
  2. Regular meetings;
  3. Special or emergency meetings;
  4. Work sessions;
  5. Public hearings; and
  6. Executive sessions.”

We did little to cleanup or edit the following and do not attempt to defend it, rather to share it. Where redundancies were obvious we combined some definitions. Some meeting types were provided without definition. Some types appear redundant, but due to rhetorical differences, we could not be certain if they were identical or not so we left them as discrete meeting types.

The 94 types of meetings we identified are as follows.

  1. Ad hoc Meetings: A meeting called for a special purpose. A good example of an ad-hoc meeting is a team of individuals chosen by the company to join a trade show and represent the company so a meeting is needed to discuss the important things and activities during the event.
  2. Board Meetings: If the meeting participants are solely board and directors members of the organization, definitely it is termed as board meeting.
  3. Brainstorming Meetings
  4. Breakout Meetings
  5. Business Meetings: With customers, clients, colleagues, etc.; often require presentations.
  6. Class Meetings
  7. Client Meetings: Some organizational teams start working on a new project and possibly a new client through a discussion.
  8. Collaborative Meetings: Some of your employees and managers may work closely with suppliers, customers or business partners on projects such as joint product development or supply chain improvements. Bringing external groups into meetings with your employees helps to strengthen business relationships and gives your employees a greater sense of customer focus.
  9. Combination Meetings: A type of meeting according to objective is called combination meeting wherein two or more of the meeting categories are applied in a single meeting session.
  10. Commitment Building Meetings
  11. Community Meetings: To interpret decisions, get input, build relationships, gain trust, etc.
  12. Conference Call Meetings
  13. Conferences: A highly structured, moderated meeting, like a presentation, where various participants contribute following a fixed agenda.
  14. Coordinating Meetings: To assure all know what’s happening when and who is responsible.
  15. Creative Meetings: To define new markets, create new products, etc.
  16. Discussions: A meeting where the leader actually wants feedback or direction or connections. You can use this meeting to come up with an action plan, or develop a new idea, for example.
  17. Emergency Meetings: A meeting called to address a crisis, whether internal or external. Such meetings are often arranged with very little notice. If the emergency meeting conflicts with another appointment, the emergency meeting typically takes precedence. If a serious problem, such as a fire or major financial loss occurs, it’s essential to inform the whole company so that all employees understand the implications and the changes that will occur. In the event of a serious fire, for example, employees may have to work in temporary accommodation with limited access to telephones and other resources. A major disaster or loss may lead to redundancies or even closure. By communicating openly in the meeting, you can reduce feelings of uncertainty in the workforce and avoid the risk of rumors spreading.
  18. Evaluation Meetings: Evaluation meetings are held to evaluate a new process, structural modification, new program, etc. The important issue is to establish a set of evaluative criteria based on the goals of the new program or process.
  19. Event Planning Meetings
  20. Executive Sessions: If allowed by charter, these meetings are closed to the public and press and generally are held for discussion of legal (litigation, advice from counsel, etc.), personnel, or other confidential matters. There are very specific legal provisions for closing the meeting such as recording the vote of council members who authorized the meeting and recording the circumstances of the meeting in the official minutes of the municipality. Executive meetings should be held only in accordance with the strict mandates of the Open Meetings Act.
  21. Family Meetings
  22. Feedback Meetings: Feedback meetings are conducted when the purpose is to let individuals provide reactions and feedback to one or several participants on a certain presentation or project.
  23. Feedforward Meetings: When there is a need to make status reports and present new information, participants gather for a feedforward meeting. It is otherwise known as reporting and presenting.
  24. Financial Review (or Update) Meetings
  25. Holiday Meetings
  26. Information Sharing Meetings: Where attendees are informed about what is happening (with or without their blessing). While there may be a facade of conversation, it is primarily designed to inform.
  27. Interdepartmental Meetings: To get input, interpret decisions and policies, share info, etc.
  28. Introduction Meetings
  29. Investigative Meetings: Generally when conducting a pre-interview, exit interview or a meeting among the investigator and representative
  30. Investor Meetings
  31. Keynote Speeches
  32. Kickoff (or First) Meetings: The first meeting with the project team and the client of the project to discuss the role of each team member. This initial gathering is called a kick-off meeting. It is also during this time wherein members are assigned individual tasks on the project.
  33. Large Conference Meetings
  34. Leadership Meetings
  35. Management Meetings: A conference among managers and supervisors is called a management meeting. If the meeting participants are solely board and directors members of the organization, definitely it is termed as board meeting.
  36. Manager Meetings
  37. Meetings to Plan Bigger Meetings
  38. New Business Pitch Meetings
  39. New Product Launch Meetings
  40. Off-site Meetings: Also called “offsite retreat” and known as an meeting in the UK.
  41. One-on-one Meetings: A meeting is not necessarily composed of a group of individuals. A discussion of two individuals is called a one-on-one meeting. Your boss may sometimes conduct a one-on-one meeting with you and the other employees individually to talk about your performance appraisal.
  42. Online Meetings
  43. Open Meetings: Best used for internal team collaborations. No designated host needed. Anyone start meetings at any time.
  44. Operational Decision Meetings: Make decisions such as staffing, purchase, or work method decision. The issue here is the establishment of set of criteria (derived from the goal of the decision and claimant issues) by which to evaluate alternatives.
  45. Organizational Meetings: Usually very soon after each election, a meeting may be necessary to establish the procedures concerning conduct of council meetings. Local practices may vary, but generally the meeting should establish: regular dates, times, and locations for routine council meetings; rules of procedure for conducting business at meetings (Robert’s Rules, etc.); and assignment of council member duties (i.e., mayor pro tempore, committee chairpersons, etc.). Many municipalities adopt and publish a schedule of meeting dates for an entire year, while charter sets others.
  46. Party Meetings
  47. Permission Meetings: This is a meeting where the other side is supposed to say yes but has the power to say no.
  48. Pitch Meetings
  49. Planning Meetings: If certain structuring and future resolutions need to be made, a planning meeting can be called.
  50. Political Meetings
  51. Pre-Bid Meetings: A meeting of various competitors and or contractors to visually inspect a jobsite for a future project. The future customer or engineer who wrote the project specification to ensure all bidders are aware of the details and services expected of them normally hosts the meeting. Attendance at the Pre-Bid Meeting may be mandatory. Failure to attend usually results in a rejected bid.
  52. Presentation Meetings: A highly structured meeting where one or more people speak and a moderator leads the proceedings. The purpose is usually to inform. Attendees may have an opportunity to ask questions, but typically their participation is limited.
  53. Private Meetings: Used for managed meetings, where the host has control. Meeting starts when host opens meeting. Host controls who can or cannot enter live meeting and host controls role delegation.
  54. Problem-Solving Meetings: When a specific problem emerges, usually manifesting itself in the form of some type of response from a dissatisfied stakeholder or claimant, a problem-solving meeting is held. These meeting take one of two general forms.
    1. Solve the immediate problem—the focus of this type of meeting is to determine how to satisfy the immediate concerns of the dissatisfied stakeholder. For example, if a specific customer has received a batch of defective parts, the issue might be, How to we get non-defective parts to this customer?
    2. Solve the long-range problem—the focus of this type of meeting is to reduce the likelihood of a given type of problem surfacing in the future, by diagnosing the cause(s) of this recurring problem and developing a solution consistent with these causes that solves the problem. In the above example, the problem might be defining as, How do we reduce the likelihood of defective parts being produced.
  55. Production Meetings
  56. Project Meetings: Project meetings bring together people from different departments working on a specific task, such as new product development or business reorganization. Project meetings take a number of different forms, including planning and progress meetings, brainstorming sessions, or design and review meetings.
  57. Project Planning Meetings
  58. Public Hearings: The council holds public hearings when it is considering a subject having unusually high community impact and when it is considering items for which local, state, or federal regulations mandate such hearings. The main purpose of such a hearing is to obtain testimony from the public. An issue on which a public hearing is held may be the subject of several work sessions and may generate potentially more citizen participation than can be accommodated at a regular meeting with its other normal business items. An additional meeting of the council for a public hearing can be valuable in providing the public an opportunity to learn the current status of a project and give the council, as the public policy makers, clear indications of public sentiment before making a decision. Additional work sessions at a subsequent meeting generally follow the public hearing before final council action on the matter at a regular hearing.
  59. Public Relations Meetings
  60. Quick Business Meetings: To check-in, coordinate, share info, prepare for next steps, anticipate customer or employee needs, answer questions for each other, etc.
  61. Regular Meetings: This is the official, final public action meeting. It is the only meeting where the council may adopt ordinances or regulations. One very important feature of the regular meeting is the public forum aspect. The regular meeting generally includes at least a citizen comment period and often incorporates a formal public hearing on one or more subjects. While allowing public comment to some degree, the regular meeting always allows the public an opportunity to hear the council discussion on each subject.
  62. Religious Meetings
  63. Report Meetings
  64. Research Review Meetings
  65. Sales Conference: A sales conference is an important communication and motivational tool. Sales representatives spend the majority of their time away from the office, often working alone. Holding a sales conference brings your sales team together with other members of the company who affect their success, such as marketing staff, product specialists and senior managers. You can use the conference to launch important initiatives such as a new product announcement or a major advertising campaign, as well as communicating your company’s plans for the next quarter or the next financial year.
  66. Sales Meetings
  67. School Meetings
  68. Seminar: A structured meeting with an educational purpose. Seminars are usually led by people with expertise in the subject matter.
  69. Shareholder Meetings
  70. Skills Building Meetings
  71. Small Conference Meetings
  72. Special Meetings: Regular meetings are scheduled in advance (usually one or two per month) to allow the public, press, and persons having business for the council to attend the meetings. However, special situations may require convening a special meeting often with little, if any, advance notice. Examples of special meeting items include, but are not limited to: emergency ordinances, unexpected matters requiring official action before the next regularly scheduled meeting, emergency equipment replacement, financial problems, and health and safety emergencies. While the occasional need for such meetings cannot be denied, the term “emergency” should be used very carefully to avoid abuse of the special meeting.
  73. Sports Meetings (and Events)
  74. Staff Meetings: Typically a meeting between a manager and those that report to the manager. Staff meetings enable you to keep employees informed on issues that affect their work. Your managers or supervisors hold regular departmental meetings to update employees on progress or deal with any issues affecting their department. If there is a major policy change or other issue that affects the whole company, you may prefer to hold a meeting of all employees to explain the change.
  75. Stakeholder Meetings
  76. Stand-up Meetings: A meeting with attendees physically standing. The discomfort of standing for long periods helps to keep the meetings short, (no more than 10 minutes to plan the day, make announcements, set expectations, assure understanding and alignment, identify upcoming difficulties, etc.).
  77. Standing Meetings: A regularly scheduled appointment, such as a weekly one-on-one with a boss or a department; or a project meeting taking place at intervals until the project is over. Since these meetings recur, their format and agenda become relatively well established. Although it’s important to hold these meetings at routine intervals for convenience and consistency, at times they can be rescheduled.
  78. Status Meetings: A meeting that is leader-led and is done through a one-way communication reporting is called a status meeting.
  79. Strategy Building Meetings: Strategy or planning meetings are called to determine the future direction of the organization or unit. Generally the issues of the mission and current strategies for achieving it are discussed.
  80. Strategy Review Meetings: Using tools like the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) model; the current direction of the organization is assessed. If it is discovered that changes in the environment render the current mission and/or strategy inappropriate, a new strategic plan is developed.
  81. Strategy Testing and Adapting Meetings
  82. Task-Related Meetings: Task-related meetings usetheknowledgeandexperienceofgroupmemberstoaccomplish a work task, such as problem-solving, decision-making, fact-finding, planning, etc. These meetings are highly interactive, and involve two-way communication between all participants. Task-related meetings also tend to fall apart more quickly with poor meeting management. The two variations include:
    1. Directed—the leader runs the meeting and controls the agenda. These are the most common types of meetings.
    2. Facilitated—an impartial facilitator runs the meeting and controls the agenda and technique. These are the least common, but are growing in use, as they are the most effective for decision-making and building.
  83. Team Meetings: A meeting among colleagues working on various aspects of a team project.
  84. Termination Meetings
  85. Topical Meetings: A gathering called to discuss one subject, such as a work issue or a task related to a project.
  86. Training Session Meetings
  87. Trip Planning Meetings
  88. Twelve Step Meetings
  89. Update Meetings
  90. Webinar Meetings: For presentations, trainings and town hall meetings. Meeting starts when host opens meeting and attendees are muted upon entry. Host controls host delegation.
  91. Work Meetings: To produce a product or intangible result such as a decision.
  92. Work Sessions (workshops): These are the most common meetings in most municipalities. Work sessions are essentially “shirt-sleeves” meetings where the council discusses issues informally to achieve more complete understanding of one or more subjects. Many work sessions are held in another room away from the formal council chamber with a “round-table” type seating arrangement to promote informal discussion. These sessions take many forms and cover virtually any subject matter. Typical work sessions will include a variety of items and will generally serve as a background discussion about items scheduled for official action at the next regular meeting.
  93. Year Beginning Meetings
  94. Year End Meetings

Much is left to wonder . . . but after this exhausting effort, we would prefer a holiday, party, or sports meeting.  Why do you conduct and attend meetings (please check all that apply):

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 SolutionImprove 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.

Core Competency: Planning Intends to Change Minds, Not Simply Make Plans


Facilitating a planning session makes you a change agent. Even President Eisenhower (then General) was known to say, “ In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” While an effective facilitator keeps their group focused on the meeting output (ie, deliverable), the real work begins when the meeting is over, because what we really plan for are new outcomes.

What President Eisenhower was suggesting is that three-ring binders may sit on a shelf and gather dust, but the key deliverable from planning sessions occurs in the fifteen cm (six inches) between our ears.

To change (as a verb) can mean a lot of things including, among others, to:

From Planning to Rewards

From Planning to Rewards

  • Adapt
  • Adjust
  • Alter
  • Amend
  • Differentiate
  • Doctor
  • Evolve
  • Innovate
  • Modify
  • Productize
  • Redesign
  • Refine
  • Remodel
  • Reorder
  • Reorganize
  • Reshape
  • Restyle
  • Revamp
  • Revise
  • Transfigure
  • Transform
  • Tweak
  • Vary

Every one of us has been involved in change, and if you are reading this, you are probably involved in a change effort right now. Congratulations, the ability to lead a group of people to change, agree, and take ownership and maintenance of the future state represents tremendous success for the session leader who got them there.

Groups that are proactive in their approach to change make more money than those who simply react. Many studies point to innovation as the modern driver of profitability. As a core competency, groups who become adept at change, which can convert their creativity into profit (innovation defined), learn the value of effective facilitation. The facilitator, remaining unbiased and neutral about HOW TO change, serves as the primary catalyst and accelerator of change, corporate learning, and financial growth.

The more we mature in the role, the more we understand that corporate reality is subjective and decisions are driven by the perception of reality, from each person. Therefore we embrace learning to ‘homogenize’ our separate realities into our common, objective reality—that is unfortunately accepted by everyone but owned by no one. As context experts, our role during meetings gets people closer to shared understanding, to acceptance of what is truly objective, and to own their commitments and consequences when our meetings conclude. When performed seamlessly, our role helps individuals that help groups that help organizations to exceed their goals and maximize their financial rewards. And to think, it all started with a planning meeting.

In the words of Giuseppe di Lampedusa in The Leopard, even: “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”

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 SolutionImprove 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.

Understanding the Time and Place for Individual Versus Group Decisions


The continuum of leadership behavior provides one context for understanding the best time and place to make individual decisions contrasted with making group decisions. That continuum, as illustrated below, ranges from the completely subordinate-centered approach to the completely leader-centered approach. In between these extremes are another four types that blend or offset the “center” perspective.

Range of Meeting Leadership Styles

Range of Meeting Leadership Styles

Both approaches can provide value, while specific advantages depend on some of the factors discussed below. Frequently, advantages of group decision making include:

  1. Improved quality of decisions, proven over and over because of contributing factors such as . . .
    • Ability to generate more ideas and options
    • Self-monitoring that forces participants to keep each other honest
    • Fewer errors in using information that is available
    • Availability of more information
    • Reduction of potential individual bias
    • Willingness to manage higher levels of risk
  2. Increases ownership through higher levels of understanding, acceptance, and likelihood to make necessary adaptations during implementation.
  3. Participating individuals are strengthened, learn more, and can more readily re-apply the same rationale when they are making subsequent individual decisions.

There are some downside considerations as well including:

  1. Potential to take more time
  2. May create or heighten expectations, perhaps making them unobtainable
  3. Could be at variance with management or senior staff
  4. Quality of the output or decision might be hampered if the group is dominated by an individual(s), submits to forced selection or voting (leading to “losers” and consequent abandonment of ownership), or congeals into what Janis (1972) describes as “Groupthink.”

Groupthink describes a state or condition when the group regresses into poor thinking and social pressures. Janis claims that three factors increase the likelihood of groupthink, namely: insulation from qualified outsiders, leaders who promote their favorite position, and strong cohesion. You may be witnessing groupthink if you observe some of the following symptoms:

  • Excessive optimism and illusion of invulnerability
  • Tendency to dismiss contrary points of view accompanied with collective efforts to rationalize their own position or discount the positions of others
  • Unquestioned beliefs in the group’s supposed moral superiority and ignoring the consequences of their decision(s)
  • Prejudicial comments and stereotyping outsiders not in the meeting
  • Audible and non-verbal pressure on participants to conform
  • Censorship of deviations from what has congealed to be ‘consensus’

Research shows however, that decision by consensus tends to result in higher quality decisions than command-control, manipulation, persuasion, voting and other means of compromise.

What is Consensus?

Consensus must be carefully defined. A robust method will make full use of all the resources in the group, can be relied on for acceptable ways to reconcile conflict, and will generate the ownership a group needs to ensure that what goes on in the meeting is carried out after the meeting has concluded. We highly recommend that ‘consensus’ DOES NOT mean we are making everyone happy. Rather, we are striving for a common acceptance and level of understanding that would include ‘yes’ answers by all participants to the following questions:

  1. Can you live with this (decision/ plan/ output/ outcome, etc.)?
  2. Will you support it professionally and not subvert it when the meeting concludes?
  3. Will you personally lose any sleep over it?

Resulting in Synergy

We could define synergy as the increased effectiveness of working together where the outcome becomes greater than the sum of the parts. We are seeking an answer that did not walk into the meeting, rather it can be created during the meeting. For a meeting with nine people for example, we are looking for the tenth answer. Synergy frequently results among groups that are seeking consensus, built around a common goal. When supported by strong facilitation, participants agree on a clear and common goal (typically the meeting deliverable), share openly, listen carefully, think clearly, and they are likely to achieve synergy.

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 SolutionImprove 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.

ScrumMasters and Agile Facilitation Practices Can Benefit All Facilitators


The term ‘information’ captures a sense of flow and dynamism, it is not static. A compound word derived from stuff that moves ‘in-formation’ should concern all facilitators, as rarely do we touch a product or conduct a process during a meeting or a workshop. Rather, we are all working with subject matter experts who provide us their perspective about stuff that is in-formation.

Collaborative practices have been increasingly applied to running agile meetings and Scrum ‘events’ with most recognizing facilitation skills as core to the ScrumMaster role. Some of the developments embraced by many that could apply to your meetings include:

Becoming a More Agile Facilitator

Becoming a More Agile Facilitator

  • Consensus building, NOT voting
  • High participation
  • Providing a variety of stimulating activities
  • Structured collaborative tools
  • Time boxing
  • Visible agendas

Some of the benefits espoused from the agile approach to facilitation practices are shown below:

  • Collective knowledge about product and process decisions
  • Early identification of high-benefit opportunities
  • Encouraging flexibility and adjustments toward unexpected developments
  • Frequent re-assessment to identify appropriate course corrections
  • In-depth exploration of more factors than normally considered

Since we are not ScrumMasters ourselves, we borrow some of this from Cara Turner, who provides richer detail about the relationship of agile methods and neuroscience at her blog site, facilitatingagility.com. Cara, along with numerous authors and scientists she uses in support, refers to eight concepts that all facilitators ought consider, namely:

  1. Conceptual Challenges: Keeping participants conscious to “be here now” burns a lot of fuel. Additionally, keeping multiple concepts in mind, at the same time, is virtually impossible for a group since individuals cannot typically think about more than four concepts at once, and thinking about only two at once is optimal, therefore . . .
  2. . . . Focus: The hardest part of any session is getting a group of people to focus on the same thing at the same time with the same meaning and intent. Be sure to schedule ample breaks.
    1. Conduct frequent breakout sessions to keep energy flowing.
    2. Consider ergonomic stretches and breathing exercises to keep participants vibrant.
    3. If necessary, use time boxing rather than burning out participants. Subsequence meeting can pick up where you leave off, with fresh energy.
    4. Schedule the most important stuff the first part of the meeting, and if it is critically important, schedule that meeting for the first part of the day.
    5. We believe that two ten-minute breaks are superior to the traditional 15 to 20 minute break offered each morning or afternoon. We do post timers however, and do not allow them to become eleven-minute (or more) breaks. Do NOT penalize people who are on time by waiting for people who are not.
  3. Get Graphic: Visual imagery also stimulates making it easier to analyze. Images (ie, iconic) and sketches (ie, illustrative) are more efficient for capturing complex relationships than narrative (ie, written) terms. If you work in a multi-national organization, they also mitigate some of the challenges associated with translations and transliterations.
  4. Mapping Stimulates: The power of patterns remains unchallenged and continues to be supported by most scientific research across a broad spectrum of disciplines. Mapping, such as logical models and process flow diagrams, make it easier to identify omissions and more fully explain the complex relationships that exists among the components being discussed.
  5. The Zen of the Experience (use all the senses): When physical/ spatial, visual, and sound (and optimally even taste and smell) harmonize, we create more vivid associations that improve our memory recall. Who cannot recall the smell, standing at the seashore, of an “ocean breeze”?
  6. Think Deeply: Here the basic challenge advances our short-term thinking to embrace long-term implications and consequences. What are the deeper associations? Because the cost of omissions, that is ‘missing stuff’, is exorbitantly high (especially with information technologies), we need to more fully value and appreciate some of the longer exercises that may be required to bring the discussion to a higher level that removes the myopic view from your participants and forces them to be integrative with their thinking. Simply put, causal diagrams take longer than ideation sessions.
  7. Use Analogies: Educators have known for centuries that learning is amplified when explained via analogy or metaphor. We have ben promoting the concept of an analogy as a way to explain the agenda and how the pieces fit together for nearly thirty years now.
  8. Write it Down: In addition to providing visual stimulation, if it is not written down it will be forgotten. In other words, if it is not written down, it did not happen. Do not waste everyone’s time, please write it down. It is easier to delete later than to recall what was said, “back then.”

Combined, the concepts above make it easier (ie, faciltaere) for your participants to act on knowledge accessed and developed during your meetings and workshops. For additional activities to support your sessions, look at her post or some of the worthwhile bookmarks provided below that support collaborative sorting, experience prototyping, idea generation, and other simulations to build consensus and higher quality deliverables, FAST.

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 SolutionImprove 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.

The Primary Reasons for Hosting Workshops Differ from Hosting Meetings


Meetings are typically held for one of the following three reasons:

Workshops and Meetings Support the Life Cycle of Projects and Other Initiatives

Workshops and Meetings Support the Life Cycle of Projects and Other Initiatives

  1. To endorse or decide
  2. To inform
  3. To monitor and review

Workshops on the other hand tend to focus on singular topics and strive to build impactful deliverables. Successful workshops depend on the following:

  • Building a workshop method to engage participants
  • Defining specific deliverables
  • Grouping information gathering activities
  • Policing the workshop method to accomplish those goals

Over the years we have catalogued the various workshops we have facilitated and share the reasons with you, sequenced below in alphabetical order, rather than frequency, importance, or randomness:

  • Any initiative requiring decision-making or consensual agreement between two or more people
  • Business area analysis
  • Business case development (including process optimization)
  • Business performance management (BPM—including balanced scorecard and dashboards)
  • Business process improvement—design or optimization
  • Content management prioritization
  • Executing your strategy, building action plans
  • Gathering requirements
  • Innovation, at least the creativity and ideation portion
  • Key performance, measuring and management indicators
  • Knowledge management (including decision support)
  • Maintenance activity to solve for missing descriptions of changes, precision with requirements, or problem identification
  • New system or business development initiatives
  • Problem situation requiring arbitration or neutrality
  • Project management
  • Problem solving
  • Product development processes
  • Scientific inquiry or challenging paradigms
  • Six Sigma® and Lean or other quality initiatives
  • Strategic planning at any level in the organizational holarchy
  • Team charters (including management perspectives and supporting strategic planning activities or tactical assignments)
  • Virtual meetings and workshops
  • Voice of the customer or advisory groups

Meetings frequently follow workshop activity. For example, numerous meetings will follow a project charter-planning workshop across the life cycle of the project being supported. While dozens of life cycles exist (eg; IPCC, DMAIC, etc.), each workshop has its own life cycle with at least three phases:

  • Preparation—getting yourself and the participants ready
  • Workshop event—gathering the information, making the decisions, and documenting the results
  • Review and resolution—distribute and integrate deliverable, typically into project

Over the next few issues we will take a look at various components required to support each phase, with required and optional roles that support a successful workshop endeavor.

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 SolutionImprove 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.

Does a Facilitator Need to be a Subject Matter Expert? (Content vs. Context)


Some of the best facilitators are NOT Subject Matter Experts within the topic and scope of the discussion; however, NOR can they afford to be subject matter ignorant. They need to be subject matter conversant and understand the terms being used and the relationship of those terms to the deliverable, but they do NOT have to have an ‘answer.’

Effective Facilitators Avoid Content Kowtow by Participants

Effective Facilitators Avoid Content Kowtow by Participants

For example, this author facilitated sessions in North America, Europe, and Asia with radiologists and directors of radiology for a manufacture to help them design their next generation of CT (Computerized Tomography) scanners. While NOT a physicist or radiologist, with strong preparation to understand the basic and essential principles of operation, we were highly effective at facilitating discussions around pain points and possible solutions.

Neutrality, curiosity, and willingness to challenge assumptions are far more important facilitator skills than being expert on the topic. Without the humility that encourages one to ‘seek to understand rather than being understood’, participants will drop out, go quiet, and disengage because they are thinking: “If this person (the leader or facilitator) already has the answer, then why are they seeking out my opinion?”

The better challenge or question may be, “What is the unit of measurement for distinguishing between ‘subject matter expertise’ and ‘subject matter conversant’?” For us, the answer is simple.

Before the session begins, the facilitator and participants ought have properly prepared. Optimal preparation includes writing down the meeting purpose, scope, deliverables, and simple agenda before the meeting begins. Make sense? Hopefully you understand that the facilitator, at minimum, better know the reason of the meeting, WHY it is important (ie, purpose), WHAT will be covered and NOT covered during the meeting (ie, scope—that is necessary to prevent meeting scope creep, the number one killer of meetings), WHERE the group is headed (ie, the deliverable or what DONE looks like), and HOW they are going to get there (ie, the agenda or prepared structure).

Therefore the unit of measurement becomes the glossary or lexicon. To what extent does the facilitator understand the terms being used in the prepared meeting purpose, scope, deliverables, and simple agenda? To what extent does the facilitator’s understanding of those terms harmonize with the understanding of the participants, their culture, and the project team or work that must occur after the meeting concludes? To what extent do the participants share the same or identical meaning of the terms being used?

We illustrate this importance by challenging you to explain the difference between a ‘goal’ and an ‘objective’. To us, they are NOT the same things. We prefer an operational definition suggesting that ‘goals’ are directional and somewhat fuzzy. For example, a mountain climber may have a ‘goal’ of getting some good photographs when they reach the summit. An ‘objective’ however is truly SMART—ie, Specific, Measurable, Adjustable (our preferred deviation from Deming’s original definition of Achievable), Realistic, and Time-based. For example, a mountain climber may need to be sheltered in a tent and sleeping bag at 3,000 meters by 17:00 before a storm blows in or they risk freezing to death.

Some culture define ‘goals’ and ‘objectives’ the opposite of our preference, defining ‘objectives’ as fuzzy and goals as SMART. A good facilitator is agnostic, and can use either set of definitions, but knows the importance of determining the optimal definitions BEFORE the meeting begins. They are responsible for controlling the context (ie, contextual expertise) and not the content (ie, subject matter expertise).

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 SolutionImprove 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.

Secret Sauce Part 2: Clear Thinking, Active Listening, & Prepared Structure


The secret to leading more effective meetings and workshops reminds us to put a CAP on wasted time and energy by embracing three behaviors:

  • Clear thinking (ie, yields consciousness)
  • Active listening (ie, yields competence)
  • Prepared structure (ie, yields confidence)

The effective meeting leader learns to cap waste—to maintain control over direction, environment, and contributions of meeting participants. To be highly effective, requires a servile attitude. Here we cover the second item, the core skill of effective facilitators, commonly referred to as “Active Listening”.

Active listening

Groups make higher quality decisions than the smartest person in the group. Why? Because groups, when properly led, are able to create options that did not exist before the individuals walked into the meeting. Input from one participant may cause another to think of something they had not considered before the meeting. For a group of nine people, we are looking for the tenth answer. With strong leadership and a little luck, that answer may also include or instill the spark of innovation.

Discipline and structure support thorough analysis, but so will the active listening method and use of stimulating visual prompts. Ultimately we are not facilitating “words” in a meeting, so much as the meaning behind the words. Obviously, meetings occur without the use of the English language at all. Non-English meetings will still be effective because words are only the tools used by participants to signify their intent, meaning, and relationships behind the words. Subsequently, pictures and models are frequently more effective tools than narrative descriptions.

Be prepared to challenge participants. Active listening is a four-step process that is NOT like having a conversation. In a conversation we make contact and absorb what the other person is saying. With active listening we need to feed back the reasons for what we have heard, confirm whether we got it right, and challenge for substantive omissions.

The differences are in the following table.

Active Listening

Active Listening

Having a conversation takes less time. Active listening however prevents misunderstanding and can help push the envelope towards options that were previously not considered, thus improving the quality of the decisions made.

We will take a deeper view of the importance of prepared structure, methodology, and tools in our next post.

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 SolutionImprove 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.

Mother Teresa’s Holiday Message of Prescribed Actions and Behaviours


A large portion of the world celebrates holidays this time of the year. Since one traditional greeting in the English language is “Merry Christmas”, it begs the question, HOW. While the thought may be genuine, and the words rich with historical precedence, HOW DOES a facilitator go about making today (and tomorrow) merry? The solution begins with attitude, and letting go of our own egos will positively impact attitudes that shape our behavior.

How do you do that? Follow the sage advice of Mother Teresa in her sentiments below and you will find it a lot easier. After all, she facilitated nourishment for thousands of “participants” by simply being of service.

Removing the Weight of the World

Removing the Weight of the World

Treat today as if you won’t exist tomorrow. 
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;

Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, there may be jealousy;

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;

Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;

It was never between you and them anyway.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

6 Potent Responses to Facilitating Collaborative Behavior During Conflict


External Conflict

Conflict in your group is natural and not necessarily bad when properly managed. You must channel conflict into productivity. Managed well, conflict leads to expanded information exchange, surfaced rationales, more options, and better group decisions that enable change. Managed poorly, conflict destroys. Properly managed, conflict leads to positive transformation. If left festering in the hallways, conflict leads to chaos.

Conflict provides one of the best reasons for justifying the time and expense of a face-to-face meeting because it cannot be properly resolved with mail, attachments, and messaging. Society places negative values on conflict at home and at school. We are not taught collaborative problem solving skills. We will look at the likely external sources of conflict, barriers you will encounter, and responses that are proven effective.

External Conflict

External Conflict

Recognizing Conflict

Recognize that conflict exists particularly when you sense resistance from the group. If your intuition tells you that something is not right, you would be wise to listen to the symptoms:

  • Challenges and attacks
  • Silence and withdrawal
  • Emergence of people with problems
  • Tardiness and punctuality problems
  • Sabotage attempts at the project, process, or facilitator

Sources of Conflict

Primary sources of conflict in a typical workshop include the following, but keep in mind that the two biggest predictors are tenure (ie, how long somebody has been around) and when their jobs, titles, or reporting situation is at risk or being changed:

  • Competition—feeling out of control or the need to control
  • Fears—participant fears as well as facilitator fears
  • Habits—used to disagreeing or arguing, cultural
  • Listening filters—age, background
  • Misinformation—rumors, especially with change
  • Participants’ problems—out of control, unable to excel or bond
  • Poorly defined objectives—misunderstanding of expectations
  • Semantics—understanding of words and intent
  • Situations—reengineering, reorganizations, automating jobs
  • Thinking styles—vertical/ horizontal
  • Ways participants view others—biases, prejudices

Barriers

The following barriers inhibit your ability to manage conflict:

  • Ability or willingness to listen—yours and theirs
  • Fears—yours and theirs
  • Group norms—culture such as “we don’t discuss that here”
  • Image—inability to save face
  • Lack of skill—a weak facilitator
  • Learned responses—our past is hard to unlearn
  • Time—consensus is seldom achieved quickly
  • Vulnerability—real or perceived threats                                                                

Your Responses

How do you respond to manage conflict? To effectively facilitate a conflict situation, you must keep conflict constructive and . . .

  1. Understand anger—dealing with yours and theirs.
  2. Know how to communicate acceptance—to promote open communications.
  3. Understand consensus—it is not compromise.
  4. Prepare properly—know if it is coming.
  5. Build a tool kit (see FAST Facilitative Leadership Tools for immediate help and develop a hip pocket set of tools in preparation for the unexpected)—build teams and diffuse problems.
  6. Challenge—when people raise objectives, discover the cause of the objection. With active listening and proper leadership, the objection can be converted into criterion. What causes the objection and what is the unit of measurement of the cause?

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.

Why Facilitators View Internal Conflict as Both Challenge and Opportunity


Don’t Run

A facilitator sees conflict in a workshop coming from the group and coming from within. Internal and external conflict reflect emotions that, when harnessed, enable innovative change. A facilitator must understand and manage conflict. We must first understand our own internal conflict so that we are prepared to serve others.

Internal Conflict

Internal conflict is fear. All people have fears. When we allow these fears to control us, we lose our ability to perform. The first step is to understand our fears. Once we do, then we can control them. Fears never go away—you simply learn to control fears. Below are some typical facilitator fears.

Internal Conflict

Internal Conflict

Once you identify your personal fears, you can find ways to make them work to your advantage. It gives you an edge. Remember that the butterflies in your stomach will always be there. You don’t want to remove them. You want to teach them to fly in formation.

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.

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