| AWWA Career Zone -- Setting the stage for a successful meeting
AWWA Articles

AWWA Career Zone -- Setting the stage for a successful meeting

By Laurie Dougherty

Career ZoneCounting on big results from your next meeting? Make sure to take time for some advance planning.

Meetings have many different purposes – from celebrating a milestone to evaluating various strategies. Whatever your goal, try out the following steps to ensure a positive outcome.

Start with the “givens”: Before you set the agenda and send out a meeting invite, make a list of the constraints or “givens” that you know about your upcoming meeting. How much time do you have? How many people can you accommodate? What is their expected reaction to the meeting topic? What meeting resources are available? What would happen if you didn’t have the meeting?  

Set clear objectives: Explain to participants exactly what you want to accomplish from each agenda item and the overall meeting. Be specific and measurable, so you and your team will know whether you have achieved your objective.

Prepare for curve balls: As the meeting facilitator, your job is to keep the discussion on track. To avoid situations that may derail your meeting, ask open-ended questions that lead to greater understanding and consensus. Avoid yes-no questions. If you encounter a challenging situation, take a break and evaluate what led up to it. Did the participants not have enough information or time to understand the topic? Did they have different perceptions? 

Shake things up: To avoid the type of boring and routine meetings that will put participants to sleep, try these simple techniques.

  1. Brainwriting.  Ask attendees to silently brainstorm a list of items on their own for a few minutes, then highlight their top three-to-five ideas. Have them share their top items with a partner and determine their group’s top six items, then share them with their table or the entire group.
  2. Gallery walk. Create posters of the information you want to share with the group and place them on easels around the room. Give your participants Post-it notes and ask them to write their positive and negative feedback and place the notes on the easels.

These strategies can help you lead more productive and engaging meetings. To learn more, check out AWWA’s  four-part certificate course, 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.