Collaboration Toolkit

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Plan Effective Meetings

Tips for Efficient Meetings

  • Create a process for scheduling meetings and distributing meeting materials.
  • Plan each meeting by outlining clear objectives.
  • Determine if a full member meeting is necessary to accomplish those objectives. Emails, one-on-one or small group calls can be effective alternatives.
  • Ensure appropriate participation at meetings. Reschedule, if needed.
  • Prepare and distribute an agenda before the meeting.
  • Identify pre-work to reduce meeting time. (Distribute materials and encourage members to bring ideas to the meeting.)
  • Design your agenda to ensure adequate time for dialogue and necessary decisions.
  • Assign action items and set realistic due dates before wrapping up meeting.
  • Distribute notes with clear action items and timelines.
  • Regularly seek ways to improve the meeting process for your group.

Set Ground Rules

  • Establish a regular schedule for meetings.
  • Assign key roles: facilitator, meeting planner/host, note taker, other staff support.
  • Identify a coordinator who keeps the group focused and actively working toward goals.
  • Agree to have meetings start and end on time. Assign someone to help enforce this.
  • Set standards for respectful listening, confidentiality and decision-making.
  • Ensure all members feel included. Some personalities naturally do more of the talking. Good meeting managers/facilitators call on “quieter” members and design activities to get wide-ranging input.
  • Determine if your group will require a consensus on key decisions.
    • Beware of “death by consensus.” With diverse groups, insisting on consensus can hinder progress. Consider using sub-groups to move toward desired outcomes.
  • Plan for and openly discuss how your group will handle conflicts, such as:
    • Discussions that can go “off on tangents” or become unfocused.
    • Discussions that attempt to undermine or derail the broader group’s interests.

Plan Room Layout

  • Room layout will depend on several factors—the size of your stakeholder group, the length of the meeting, and the size of the meeting room.
  • Try to match the room size with the size of the group because some people are reluctant to speak in a cavernous room.
  • Tying in other colleagues by phone? Be certain the phone speaker is positioned near those talking. Check in with phone participants to ensure they can hear speakers.
  • Create an environment that will stimulate discussion.
  • If possible, arrange seating so that all members can see each other (such as U-shaped or semicircular).
  • Consider tables in front of the participants. Tables can create a barrier, but they also provide a place for notebooks, cups and so forth.
  • Don’t forget to consider lighting and placement of equipment.

Tips for Meeting via Conference Call

  • It sounds simple, but be sure all participants have the call-in number.
  • Using web-technology to share PowerPoint presentations can ensure participants are following at the same pace.
  • When participants join by phone, the facilitator or meeting lead lacks the ability to read body language. Check in with the group throughout the meeting to ensure people are following and in agreement.
  • Take time to check in with others if a small set is dominating discussions.
  • It can be helpful to restate each decision or next step as it’s identified and ask if there are any questions before moving on to the next topic.

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