Strategies for Effective Meetings & Collaborative Projects
Do you wonder how to get people in meetings to discuss what matters or how to make the most of the time you have together? We are consistently asked to shed some light on this topic and wanted to provide sound counsel about how to set the table for effective exchange while insuring focused, competent dialogue.

Assigning Roles
We recommend assigning the following roles and their corresponding responsibilities:

1) Agenda Manager
The Agenda Manager gathers recommendations from the group to design a meeting that focuses on agreed upon priorities of topic. Combining strategies for preparing people on the meeting topic will help individuals focus and insure thoughtful dialogue between all participants. This individual's contributions greatly impact the role of the Dialogue Facilitator explained below. It is recommended that the two individuals assigned to the Agenda Manager and Dialogue Facilitator roles work closely together to build the foundation for a productive event.

2) Dialogue Facilitator
The Dialogue Facilitator monitors timing of conversations to insure that everyone participates.

3) Note Taker
The Note Taker records and documents meeting highlights and agreements. This individual shares the group's notes after each meeting via email.

4) Agreement Manager
The Agreement Manager articulates each agreement made during the meeting and summarizes them to insure that each individual knows and understands what their next steps will be following the meeting. This individual works closely with the Note Taker to be sure that each specific agreement is included in the meeting notes. It is recommended that the Agreement Manager write out this summary and include it with the Note Taker's meeting summary to support collaboration and clarity among all participants.

Creating Topics of Focus
We recommend that each participant send in the topics they are interested in discussing or articulate their interest for being a part of the group. If this is an internal work group the question to ask may be what is the purpose for your participation in this meeting or event? Ask each participant to make their list and prioritize this list using numbers.

Unless the topics are questions easy to answer with hard data, it is recommended that a meeting of 1-2 hours in length focuses on 1-2 topics maximum, this give everyone involved an opportunity to share and speak.

Develop the meeting agenda based on the highest priorities, in some cases you may want to have a meeting to create agreements about the topics of priority between the participants.

It is wise to create a list of 1-5 questions that relates with the meeting topic or focus and ask each participant to reflect on these before your event so that they can share thoughtfully.

Conducting Your Meeting:

1. Come prepared.

2. Stay in the present.

3. Open by introducing everyone (if need be) and their assigned roles as well as meeting roles: Agenda Manager, Dialogue Facilitator, Note Taker, and Agreement Manager.

4. Start by checking in briefly with each person and asking them to share their priority or share a specific question that they may have at the very beginning.

5. Make time and room at the end of your meeting to summarize specific agreements and assign the four key roles for the next meeting. Keep in mind it may be of benefit to the project, client or the initiative overall to have specific individuals maintain one of the four roles mentioned above during the life cycle of a project.

NOTE: It is recommended however that each these roles migrate through your team over time. This will support the opportunity for learning and competency development be provided to each team member. This process will create an appreciation for each role, the role's responsibilities and impact on collaboration; in turn it can strengthen people's willingness to collaborate over time.