3 steps to easy meeting planning

In a recent free meetup and exchange (register here), we discussed how to help leaders plan great meetings. Leaders often come to coaching with a request to plan or think through the facilitation of events, meetings, discussions etc. If you are acting as a coach, the main point is to help the leader see what he or she needs to be doing as the facilitator rather than focus too much on the circumstances and what the other people should be doing. The goal of the session for the leader is more usefully phrased as: “what I can do to facilitate…” rather than “what my direct reports should be doing differently”.

Here are some steps that you can use both as a coach to support a leader and as a leader in order to prepare conversations and meetings.

Step 1: Determine the desired outcome on three levels – what, who and how

The “what”

Ask yourself: “What result do we need from this meeting?” Be specific, e.g. “A clear way forward with assigned tasks, timelines, roles and responsibilities” or “All important questions are clarified, people have really thought through the issues and everyone is able to carry on (that would be the measure of success)”

The “who”

Ask yourself: “Who do I need my people to be in this meeting – which version of them do I want to tap into?” Do you want everyone to be engaged, do you want people to be able to be open, contradict each other – do you want people to be disciplined and take fast decisions? Depending on the topic, very different ways of showing up in the meeting might be beneficial: if everything is clear and you need to move fast but have to get decisions, people need to be disciplined, shut up, only speak when they clearly have something to add. If you want to develop new ideas, create a buzz around something, you want everyone to be engaged, to have the atmosphere be light, redundancies are more welcome. Develop a clear picture in your mind about which version of the participants you want to invite to the meeting.

The “how”

Think about the optimal way the meeting will pan out given your thoughts around the “what” and the “who” — really think this through. This will probably already result in some ideas around how to facilitate.

Step 2: Make a plan

Now that you know “what”, “who” and “how” you can start planning your facilitation. I usually use a template like this:

TimeActivityGoalGroup formMaterial / Tech
9:00WelcomeFeel comfortablePlenaryCoffee
9:10AgendaOrientationPlenarySlides / Flipchart
9:15Goal SettingClarity on goals of the dayTriads in breakouts then PlenaryCollect results in Mural / Flipchart
9:45PrioritiesClear priorities PlenarySticky dots in mural
Example of a facilitation plan

Of course, the timings won’t always match what you planned — but if you get into the habit of planning times, you will learn very quickly how long activities take.

Here are some tips on which group form and visualization to choose for the most common goals:


Use “think, pair, share” – get people to think for themselves first and ask them to document their thoughts using post-it notes or a miro/mural/jamboard. Then ask them to discuss in pairs and then cluster all the notes on the board. Don’t cut the individual reflection short — if you discuss in plenary first, you will get the ideas of the loudest, but maybe not the ideas of the quiet thinkers.

Optimism and good mood

Ask people: “What do you know about our team that tells you we can get this done?” or “What were the highlights of last year — who contributed what?” and use a playful visualization like images or sticky notes to be put on people’s back (e.g. “what I appreciated about you last year”)

Fast decisions

Collect the criteria for a good decision — what will tell us that our decision was a good one? Visualize. Scale: How clear are we on what to decide, 10 being completely clear, 1 the opposite? What is already clear? (visualize this) What do we need to do to become even clearer?

Of course there are many more situations! A really good resource for facilitation techniques is here: Liberating Structures – Liberating Structures Menu. Or you might be interested in my team coaching book which contains a lot of facilitation tools: Solution Focused Team Coaching (it says “German edition” but it is in English — don’t know what else to do to get Amazon to label it right!)

You might also join one of our team coaching trainings: