Have you thought about your meetings, lately? Are they purposeful? Do they create impact? Or, are they a waste of time?
According to master facilitator Priya Parker, it matters most to know why we are gathering. There are many reasons for meetings and bringing people together; sometimes to share ideas and brainstorm, other times to bond and create a stronger work culture, or to discuss new information and product launches.
In her book The Art of Gathering, How We Meet and Why it Matters, Parker outlines several best practices in defining purpose and outlining actions.
These three resonated the most with me:
Know the WHY of your gathering and don’t be swayed by other details.
Don’t mistake having an agenda with having a purpose.
Recently I was facilitating a gathering of approximately 80 business owners. The initial goal of our meeting was to share new developments and tools. We could have delivered the information digitally, however, once we determined that the WHY of our gathering was to bring people together to connect, create bonds and meet others from around the country after two years of Zoom gatherings, the meeting’s purpose and thereby meeting plan changed.
With a co-facilitator, we built the agenda based on the purpose of connection and structured the room in a way that allowed for smaller group discussions at round tables of 8. We rotated the groups throughout our time together to allow the attendees to meet as many other people as possible. We also ensured that plenty of breaks and free time were built into the agenda so people could socialize and connect. Without knowing that WHY, we may have structured the meeting in a classroom-style session, or not have planned for as much interactivity as we did.
Be an engaged Host
Don’t assume your gatherings, whether a business meeting or a party, is going to be self-managed just because people know one another. Don’t give up the opportunity to craft a great experience for everyone by being a “chill” host. Whether it’s a daily huddle that has its own rituals and cadence, or an annual offsite, sweat the small details from the location, to who is or isn’t invited.
Create a plan for engagement and connection exercises to set the tone and theme. Setting expectations even before the meeting starts by communicating with the attendees ahead of time and sharing any pre-work that may be needed. On the day of the meeting, be a gracious host by welcoming the attendees, interacting with and introducing everyone, and setting the tone for the time together.
Take advantage of Opening and Closing your meetings
Don’t start or end the meeting with logistics. That can come later, and take advantage of the opportunity to use the Close and Open timeframe to create the mood and momentum of the meeting. Remember, some people may be anxious about attending so plan how can you set up the opening to be a safe space for everyone to feel ready to participate.
Wrapping up your gathering presents a great opportunity to create memories, reflect on key takeaways, and provide “stickiness of content” so that people walk away energized and impacted, and remember what was discussed.
Whether you are now gathering in person or digitally these days, these best practices of having a purpose, being an engaged host, and having a memorable open and closing apply. For more info please read her book. It’s a fabulous read.
What specific rituals or best meeting/gathering practices would you like to share?