Different Angles 16: Core Facilitation Tools Part 2: Creating Good Meeting Agendas

In This Issue

  • Core Facilitation Tools Part 2: Creating Good Meeting Agendas 
  • PCC Fall Workshops: Making Online Meetings Less Terrible (2 hour workshop), and Tools for Good Meeting Facilitation (4 consecutive Tuesdays)
  • Highlighting Thought Partner work with facilitators and consultants

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This is the second in a series. You will find the first article – What are Meetings For? – as an older post in the Different Angles eNewsletter page of my website: https://www.tasha-harmon.com/newsletter/

And, I also want to highlight the new service I’m providing, thought-partnering with facilitators, trainers and consultants. Here is what one of my colleagues has to say:

“As a facilitator and organizational consultant, I work on a variety of projects, and almost always on my own. It’s so incredibly helpful to have someone that I can call up for advice or perspective and immediately get right into the core of my conundrum or need. Tasha is amazing at this! She is able to think quickly, adapt through the conversation as the story evolves, offer all kinds of suggestions, and send me resources to help. It’s such a relief knowing that I can call on her — and knowing that she’s available has given me the confidence to say YES to gigs that stretch my boundaries. Thought-partnering is a fantastic service!”

Jenny Leis, Group process facilitator and consultant

You’ll find more details about the work after this article and the info on workshops.

Core Facilitation Tools Part 2: Creating Good Meeting Agendas

The facilitator’ rule of thumb is that you should spend at least as much time preparing for meetings as you do in the meeting (far more, if the issue to be addressed is controversial). One critical part of that preparation is the creation of the agenda.

Meetings should focus on work that is best done when you are all together (or at least in real time, using technology like Mural’s online whiteboard that allow you to collaborate in real time), and, as I discussed in the first article in this series, you want to be very clear about what your goals are for meeting.

Components of an Excellent Meeting Agenda

  • A statement of the purpose/goal for the meeting, and for each agenda item — what do you need from and for the team?
  • An agenda review at the beginning of the meeting, framed such that participants are encouraged to ask clarifying questions, and, when relevant/appropriate, to suggest other topics that might need to be discussed.
  • A list of agenda items that frame the issue and give participants food for thought. Clearly state not just the item (i.e. “event committee report”) but also:
    • Who is presenting/running that section,
    • The key things that will be addressed (between 1 and 3 is best),
    • The goal/outcome you want, 
    • What the team’s role in that is (see my Roles in Decision-Making handout), and
    • How many minutes you have set aside for that item (negotiated with the person presenting). (Note: some folks prefer not to attach times; this works as long as you can be flexible in the meeting about how many of the items on the agenda actually get addressed in that meeting.)
  • Example of an item as you might list it on an agenda: 1:00 – Anniversary Celebration — Event Committee
    • Brief update: new info since report went out (3 min) — see Appendix A
    • Date for the Anniversary Celebration — decide between three options (could be listed here) (6 min)
    • Goals for the Anniversary Celebration — brainstorm a list of possible goals for the committee to consider (10 min)
    • Identify any other questions or concerns for the committee to consider (5 min)
  • A brief evaluation (5-15 minutes, depending on the length of the meeting) at the end: Ask participants to identify what went well/was valuable, and what they wish had been different. This mechanism supports continuous improvement of the meeting process, and helps keep people engaged.

Other Meeting Agenda Tips

  • Send the agenda out ahead of time — this helps participants (especially introverts) start thinking about the issues ahead of time, and calibrates their expectations.
  • Never go more than 75 minutes without some kind of break — even a simple stand up and stretch is better than nothing, but 10-15 minutes is best. If you are online, any break should be at least 2 minutes long as you want to instruct folks to move away from — and stop looking at — the screen.
  • Once you have drafted an agenda, look back at it and ask yourself:
    • Are all of these items good uses of our time in a meeting? Could any of them be better addressed in some other way? (Email, phone call, announcement, collaborative work on a document, etc.)
    • Am I clear about what I want from the meeting participants on each agenda item? And will this be clear to others looking at the agenda?
    • Have I allocated sufficient time for each of these agenda items?
    • Am I making use of different meeting formats (small groups, multi-voting, continuum mapping, etc.) to keep the energy up and engagement high? (See Different Angles Issue 12 on the Power of the Format Shift.

Make adjustments as needed to ensure that the meeting is engaging, focused, and strengthens your team.

Exercise Part 1

  • Review an agenda from a meeting you participated in and/or facilitated, using the questions above.
  • Revise the agenda based on your responses to those questions.

Exercise Part 2

  • Create an agenda for an upcoming meeting using the criteria outlined in this article.
  • Review it using the questions in 3 above, and revise as needed.
  • If you are the actual organizer/facilitator for the meeting, try it out and see what happens. If you are not, consider whether it would be useful to make one or two specific suggestions to the person who does organize/facilitate the meeting.

What’s your experience with the impact of agenda design on meetings — as a meeting organizer or a participant? Do you have questions or comments? Please email me, or join the conversation below. I will respond, as appropriate, on the website or in future eNewsletters. If I refer to your question or comment in a future article, I will keep you anonymous unless you give me permission to do otherwise.

This article is drawn from my basic meeting facilitation training.  I am teaching that training this fall at PCC. (See below.)  

Related Posts:

What are Meetings For? 

The Power of the Format Shift

Working with Complaints in Meetings

Using Questions to Move Meetings Forward

Roles in Decision-Making

Fall Workshops at PCC

How to Make Online Meetings Less Terrible

This 2 hour workshop for anybody feeling challenged by running online meetings, is Tuesday, October 5th, from 6:30 to 8:30. NOTE: The PCC catalogue lists the end time as 8:20. but we will go until 8:30. The CRN is 45396. The cost is $29.

Are you frustrated by how hard it is to get folks to engage and do collaborative work in online meetings? We’ll use Zoom and Mural to explore facilitation techniques and ways to do visual collaboration online that will energize your meetings, increase engagement, and help you get good work done. This workshop will use the online collaboration tool Mural, but many of the ideas presented can also be done on other visual collaboration tools, like Google’s Jamboard. You will need a computer (not a phone) to be able to participate.

Tools for Good Meeting Facilitation

This workshop will run four consecutive Tuesdays, starting October 26th, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. NOTE: PCC lists the end time as 8:20, but we will go until 8:30. The CRN is 43804. The cost is $55.

What do you wish you could change in the meetings you run, or participate in? This workshop combines lively presentations on useful tools and practices with Q and A and highly interactive exercises, reflecting on actual challenges experienced by participants. It will be offered online using Zoom and Mural, and include discussion and practice of best practices and tools for facilitating remote meetings. Because we will be using Mural, you will need a computer, rather than a phone, to participate.

You do need to preregister for these workshops through PCC.

New Offering: Thought Partner Work with Facilitators and Consultants 

As a facilitator, trainer, or organizational development consultant, do you ever wish you had someone to:

  • Brainstorm with you about a meeting agenda?
  • Review the survey data you have and provide another perspective, look for things you might be missing?
  • Think up front about how to design a process? (including, perhaps, how to best use online whiteboard tools to support powerful collaboration in real time)
  • Listen and provide some ideas or new questions when you feel stuck, or something isn’t going well?
  • Read a draft report, ask questions, make suggestions, and check for internal consistency?
  • Bring some specific skills or experience you don’t have?

I’ve been a facilitator, trainer, and supporter of organizational change for over 25 years. If the perspectives, tools and experiences you see reflected in the rest of this website seem like they might be useful to you in a thought partner, I would be happy to talk with you about what I might bring to a particular process or project. Please reach out if you are curious.

“Tasha was an invaluable thought partner for me. My client benefited from my having had Tasha’s help reflecting on their situation and strengths, and co-creating with her an agenda to support their decision-making conversation. Tasha is very insightful and brings a huge box of helpful tools and resources for facilitation and planning. Plus, she is really fun to work with!”

Allison Handler, Principal,
Travertine Strategies

I am offering training, coaching and facilitation online

I am currently supporting organizations and individuals primarily online, using phone, Zoom, and Mural, a powerful and easy-to-use tool for visual collaboration.

If you would like to discuss what I could bring to your organization or team please contact me. You will also find an overview of my services and experience on the Services page of my website.

© Tasha Harmon, July 2021. All rights reserved.

You are invited to share this eNewsletter with friends and colleagues. Please keep it intact, including the acknowledgements and contact information. If you’d like to reprint an article from my eNewsletter, written permission is required. Please do contact me about this if you are interested. Thank you.

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