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AWWA Career Zone -- Clear expectations: planning a successful meeting

By Laurie Dougherty

One thing that hasn’t gone away from the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic is the need for meetings. Although we’re more likely to check-in virtually than gather around a conference table, we’re still collaborating with others to perform our duties and meet our goals.

Career Zone #AWWAConnectionsThere are many purposes for meetings, and it saves time and energy to be clear about who should attend and what type of participation is expected. Below are some tips for planning meetings from a self-paced e-learning course I’ve helped developed for the American Water Works Association, Facilitation Fundamentals Certificate Program.

  • Meetings are held for six main purposes: to obtain input, share information, improve communications, build community, build capacity and make decisions. Each meeting type requires a different type of participation from an attendee. Some meetings have more than one purpose.
  • Be clear on the reason for the meeting. What decisions have already been made, what parameters are in place and what is the role of the attendees? 
  • Limit your invitation list to those who have a role in the meeting. This saves others the time and frustration of sitting through a discussion in which their input it not needed. Sometimes they just need a memo to stay informed.
  • Take time to think about the order of the agenda. Should you tackle controversial items first, while you have more energy? Or start with a few quick issues so you can spend more time later on big picture items?  
  • For each item on your agenda, indicate the action needed. Are you making a decision? Evaluating options? Hearing a report? Make sure your meeting time is well spent.
  • As the leader of the meeting, be sure your role is clear. You may be a facilitator gathering input, or a subject matter expert sharing factual data. 
  • Encourage meeting participation and creative input by guiding discussions toward achieving the group’s shared goals.

Following the steps above can help you lead more productive and engaging meetings. To learn more, check out the four-part course leading to a certificate in Facilitation Foundations for Public Service Leaders.

Laurie Dougherty is a certified trainer and facilitator who served as executive director of AWWA’s Illinois Section for 28 years. She has an instructional design certificate from Rollins College in Florida. More career resources and job opportunities are available at AWWA’s Career Center and at Work for Water.