Fred Bartenstein & Associates, LLC: Meeting/Facilitation Services
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Model for Effective Meetings

Meeting Planning Guide

Meeting Ground Rules

Public Input Ground Rules

Facilitation Tips

Meeting/Facilitation Services

In organizations larger than one person, people have to meet in order to get things accomplished. Ineffective meetings are a tremendous drain of energy, productivity, and resources. When the topic is of critical importance, when managers need to fully participate in the meeting instead of running it, or when participants don't know or trust each other, an outside professional facilitator can be of tremendous value.

Here are some materials we use in structuring meetings. You are welcome to use or adapt them as you wish.

Model for Effective Meetings

1. Purpose
  • The meeting has a clear purpose, stated in writing.
  • All participants are crystal-clear and present to the purpose.
  • Only those people necessary to achieve the purpose are in attendance.
2. Preparation
  • Necessary advance work has been done to avoid wasting time at the meeting.
  • Materials have been distributed at least one day in advance.
  • People are aware of and prepared for their roles (chair, recorder, timekeeper).
3. Agenda
  • A written agenda is the backbone of the meeting.
  • Only items which advance the purpose are included.
  • Agenda items are stated in outcome language (e.g. "decision on the award").
  • It is clear whether the agenda item involves information transfer, brainstorming, problem-solving or decision-making.
  • Time and an order is allocated to each agenda item.
4. Initiating
  • The meeting begins with a step which builds trust and presence (voices in the room).
  • Re-initiate if necessary during the meeting.
5. Participation
  • The meeting is governed by rules of trust rather than rules of order.
  • There is a balance between creativity and judgment, thinking and feeling.
  • Everyone is included.
  • All participants consider: "What do I need to do? What does the meeting need to do?"
6. Leadership
  • Leadership revolves within the group.
  • The leader:
    • is a facilitator, not a dictator.
    • takes ownership of the purpose and the results, both content and process.
    • is aware of beginning, middle and end issues.
    • listens for decisions and presents them for approval.
7. Action
  • Record, assign, distribute and follow up on all decisions and commitments.
  • Meetings are evaluated for continuous process improvement.

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Meeting Announcement and Guide

Meeting Date __________________________ Start Time __________ End __________
Location __________________________
Host __________________________
Purpose __________________________________________________________
Leader  __________________________________________________________
Recorder  __________________________________________________________
Timekeeper  __________________________________________________________
(Other)  __________________________________________________________
(Other)  __________________________________________________________
(Other)  __________________________________________________________

Current Agenda

Item# ____ Time ____  ______________________________ Type* ____ Leader ____
Item# ____ Time ____  ______________________________ Type* ____ Leader ____
Item# ____ Time ____  ______________________________ Type* ____ Leader ____
Item# ____ Time ____  ______________________________ Type* ____ Leader ____
Item# ____ Time ____  ______________________________ Type* ____ Leader ____
Item# ____ Time ____  ______________________________ Type* ____ Leader ____
* I=Information  B=Brainstorming  P=Problem-Solving  D=Decision

Future Agenda

Item:  _______________________________________________________________
Item:  _______________________________________________________________
Item:  _______________________________________________________________
Item:  _______________________________________________________________
Item:  _______________________________________________________________
Item:  _______________________________________________________________

Requirements for an Effective Meeting

• Purpose    • Agenda    • Participation    • Action
• Preparation    • Initiating    • Leadership


Meeting _____________________________ Date ____________________________
Notes _______________________________________________________________

Action Items

Action     Person Responsible Due Date
1.  _______________________________  ______________  ______________
2.  _______________________________  ______________  ______________
3.  _______________________________  ______________  ______________
4.  _______________________________  ______________  ______________
5.  _______________________________  ______________  ______________
6.  _______________________________  ______________  ______________
7.  _______________________________  ______________  ______________
8.  _______________________________  ______________  ______________
9.  _______________________________  ______________  ______________
10.  _______________________________  ______________  ______________

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Meeting Ground Rules

1.  Begin and end on time
2.  Participants set the agenda
3.  Decisions by consensus ("I can live with it.")
4.  Keep yourself and the meeting on track
5.  One person speaks at a time
6.  Participate fully

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Public Input Ground Rules

1.  We're here for dialogue, not to win
2.  One person speaks at a time
3.  Respect time and others waiting to participate
4.  Facilitator will manage a queue for comments and questions
5.  Send up a card with
      • Your name
      • Topic of your question or comment (one topic per card)
6.  Not more than two responses per question
7.  No interruptions or follow-up questions (but you can get back in the queue)
8.  Those who have not participated will be recognized first
9.  End on time

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Facilitation Tips

Here are some notes for a workshop I give on facilitation skills. Please pardon the outline format and the jargon. If there's a concept or word you'd like me to explain, send an e-mail to


• To make easy.

• Process leadership.

• To provide structure (space, time, order).

• To compensate for certain tendencies in human nature (to wander, rush decisions, avoid decisions, dominant and recessive personalities).

• There are "schools" and styles. Whatever works.

Usually (when I can, when it is appropriate, when I remember) my style is to:

Maintain health and stamina: mental, physical, spiritual. Keep my "stuff" out as much as I can while still being present and real. Stay in practice.

Conduct advance interviews and make anonymous reports.

Co-facilitate (for stamina and perspective).

Provide a check-in. In the initiation phase, a participant's focus is primarily on: "Do I want to be here?" and "Am I safe?" Ask for essential reference information and a deepening, humanizing question. Post a template and model level of detail.

Suggest and negotiate ground rules.

Explain the discussion sequence and lead people through it. Generate options first. The priorities and group wisdom emerge. Divergence, "groan zone," convergence. Initiation, orientation, options, priorities, choices, fleshing out, reorientation (assignments, next steps), closure. Use time limits, queue, prioritization methods, consolidation, campaign speeches, consensus, parking lot.

Track multiple levels of content and process. Actively scan the room. Pay attention with respect and compassion. Note non-verbals. Think ahead, think fast. (Canoeing analogy: flatwater, riffles, and drops.) Keep my intuition alert. Attend to what is happening externally and inside myself, and share selectively.

Be a process leader. Frees the positional leaders to participate and pay attention. Track content, but don't participate in content discussions. Aim for simultaneous loose-tight properties. On a continuum from elicitive to directive, I am a fairly high intervener. As a human pointer/traffic officer (eyes, arms, hands, body), I model attention to a particular person, subject or process. Manage a queue of people wanting to speak. Be able to absorb, envision, and propose a consensus position (expecting the group to refine it). Don't engage in the issue of room temperature (no win, I'll be warmer).

Use myself flexibly, intentionally. Meet the clients where they are (guide from the elbow). Model optimism. Acknowledge frustration, resignation, hilarity, sadness. Stay detached but in close contact. On the boundary of the organization and its environment. It's the clients' work; let them do it. Don't give approval. It creates a hierarchy and perceived differentiation. Don't make judging comments.

Manage time. Use time intentionally. Go slow to go fast. Pacing: quick but not rushed. Manage different anxieties. Know what time it is, how much has elapsed, and how much remains in the meeting and on a particular agenda item. (Radio/TV experience helps.) Renegotiate as needed. Monitor the need for a break (fatigue, wandering concentration, divisiveness). Use a "parking lot" (records unresolved issues, helps a discussion return to the track.) Take and use breaks; breakthroughs and reorientation often happen in breaks.

Record. Provide a visible, contemporaneous record of proceedings. Write what people say. Helps them feel heard. Provides opportunities for correction. Supports visual learners. Filters emotional content. Helps with group amnesia (e.g. when a break ends).

Seek consensus. Alternatives are: majorities rule, loudest rule, hierarchies rule, footdraggers rule. Record options. Ask for "campaign speeches." Take a straw poll. Ask those on the minority if they can support the majority position. If not: continue discussion, agree to disagree, or table.

Trust the process. Trust my training, experience, and conditioning. Trust the group to correct anything that goes wrong and to suggest a direction when I am clueless. Expect breakthroughs. Stay humble — we're all human.

Attend to closure/withdrawal. Make room for closing comments (e.g. today's meeting and where we are as a group). Closing comments gather feedback and help people find the collective mood and conclusion rather than project their own onto the group. A graceful transition to the next thing.

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