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Designing Transformative Meetings: Defining Objectives

Transformative meetings inspire ideas, action, and accountability. Sounds like a meeting you want to attend, right? Although the idea of designing transformative meetings sounds out of reach, I assure you anyone can do it by including five simple structures – agendas, roles, objectives, agreements, and timekeeping. Collectively, these pieces lead to meeting success every time. For now, I'm going to delve into objectives because they set your meeting destination. If you don't know where you want to end up, how do you know where to start?


Define your objective. Simply put, defining objectives means you identify tangible outcomes for the meeting. Ask yourself: What will you and participants create? Will you walk away with new ideas? An action plan? Consensus on a decision? The beauty is that there is no right or wrong answer, but you need to understand that “discussing a topic” is not an objective in and of itself. In fact, your objective will guide the type of discussion you plan. Sure, without an objective you might get lucky, but if you don't have an endpoint in mind, chances are you won't get there.


Prepare. What you put into something drives what you get out, and meetings are no different. Your job as the convener is to figure out how the group will meet the defined objective long before the meeting starts. Do the prep work that drives transformative results. This may mean communicating the objective and agenda, selecting a process to guide discussion, and providing background information for review.


Shape the meeting. The objective you choose will affect the flow of your meeting. For example, if your objective is to brainstorm new, creative ideas, then everything from how you approach the room set up to the structure of the discussion should reflect that. In this situation, you're going to want people close to one another in small groups. You'll also need to give prompts and have materials available for people to draw and write to spark creativity. If you're working to make a decision, you may have to go through a brainstorm and then a different, more structured process for narrowing ideas and reaching consensus. This type of meeting will take more time. In my experience, it often takes more than two hours for a group to make a complex decision.


Results. Clearly defining your objective will lead to much more than just tangible work product results. You will also reach a by-product result of positivity from the team. When people leave a meeting feeling accomplished and like everyone is on the same page effectively working toward the same goal, it will boost morale and decrease the post-meeting chatter, which can lead to confusion and negativity. At the end of a meeting, I like to ask participants: Did we reach our objective? Letting people chime in and being sure everyone feels the consensus is important.


When you define your objective and use your meeting time wisely, people will leave feeling energized and ready to implement appropriate next steps. One of my core philosophies is to "start with the end in mind." When you define your objective, you create an efficient experience that gives people a voice that leads to problem-solving, collaboration, and innovation. You are thinking about the things that lead to success in advance and are planning for them. You are making the most of your meeting.

I'd love to learn more about your meeting challenges and how you can create transformative meetings. Feel free to schedule a time to chat with me one-on-one.

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