Whether it concerns finding ideas, lining up teams or making sure that everything is in order, the success of a meeting requires detailed preparation. But that, in itself, is not enough: there is also a need to facilitate the emergence of participants’ views and their engagement. Here are a few tips for achieving your objectives.

1. Be on TOP

Being on TOP of a meeting is being clear about the Theme, the Objectives and the Plan. The Theme encompasses the subject you want to talk about; it also allows you to determine who should (or should not) be invited. The Objectives pursued are expressed in terms of deliverables or desired behaviors. An objective is not “discussing one subject or another”; it is obtaining concrete outcomes. A meeting will be successful if you have resolved a problem, drawn up a specific action plan or created/instilled new momentum in your teams. Finally, the Plan is drawn up to enable you to achieve your objectives: from the conventional threefold objective (generation of ideas, focus and action) to more specific agendas (un-conf or mindfulness meetings, etc.). It is up to you to establish the best route for your audience.

2. Lay down the framework and establish the ground rules

Why are we here? Why were the participants chosen? What is expected of them? Paradoxically, laying down the framework means pinpointing the heart of the matter and responding to the question of why rather than what or how.

3. Manage outbursts

These arise when the participants no longer distinguish individuals from their role or their job function. When emotion prevails over rationality, it is essential to remind everyone that the meeting is not a place for settling personal differences.

4. Draw on allies

Two mistakes are often made when leading meetings:

  • relying too heavily on those who find it easy to express themselves orally. To avoid this, target those who express themselves less fluently by creating a supportive environment, by using anonymous written expression at brainstorming sessions or by using apps;
  • devoting too much time to radical or strongly opposed viewpoints. In any group, you will have opponents and allies, active or passive. The objective of active opponents or die-hards, is to undermine the meeting. Nothing is gained by trying to convince them.  It is better to contain them and focus on their “supporters”. According to the strategy of alliance defined by experts in socio-dynamics, two-thirds of your time should be devoted to supporting and encouraging your allies and one-third to isolating or containing the nuisance power of your opponents. How? Deal with that group separately, if necessary.

5. Retain all ideas

Each opinion expresses a perception. “Don’t kill the messenger! “, as the saying goes. Even if what is said does not echo your view, it must be expressed so that it can be determined whether it is shared by the group as a whole or is simply a personal viewpoint.

6. Modify the set-up during the meeting

Since each meeting room layout facilitates a means of exchange, you need to be able to change it to stimulate creativity and collective intelligence, for example, by setting up sub-groups or by removing tables or chairs.

7. Use the wall space

Currently, too many meetings remain static. Get up, use the flipchart, or even the walls, to write on and focus attention. Share. Express yourself in any way you please. Why not through drawings? By the end of the meeting, the walls of your meeting room may be a valuable reflection of the exchanges and decisions taken, and everyone can refer to what is written there. That way, there is no ambiguity as to the messages expressed. In addition, writing down what is said by a participant shows the value you attach to the idea, which encourages engagement.

8. Foster engagement

It is not a simple task, but engagement is most easily obtained if everyone feels that they have taken part and had a voice. You do not have to agree but you can align if you have a sense of belonging to a group. The person in charge of the meeting must therefore be capable of showing that the choices made and decisions taken are good for the group as a whole.

9. Make the end of the meeting a beginning

When the meeting ends, time must be taken to clarify each person’s responsibilities. Care should therefore be taken to determine who will do what and when; otherwise the day is spent building momentum for nothing.

10. Make use of a facilitator

It is often easier to achieve cohesion within a group and attain its objectives when there is an outside contributor who takes on the role of dealing with the meeting’s form and procedures. The job of reframing the objectives is more easily accepted by everyone. Furthermore, the person who has organized the meeting becomes a participant and sheds his role as a moderator. His leadership is less onerous for everyone and he is more easily integrated into the group.

(This article was prepared with the assistance of Alexandra Fix of Edgework Partnership, event facilitation partner of Fontaines).

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