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Plan Efficient Meetings: Stages of a Facilitated Session

This lesson is a part of an audio course Plan Efficient Meetings by Igor Arkhipov

Just like a team of super players does not necessarily become a super team, great individual contributors may not perform great together during meetings due to poor organisation and facilitation. This results in the waste of group time, which could have been spent in a valuable way otherwise. Getting all the stakeholders in a room can be a hard job to organize, so wasting this time together is a waste of a valuable resource – group time.

Furthermore, individuals' time is constantly consumed by the number of meetings they have to attend. This does not leave enough space for solo work. Poor scheduling also disrupts crucial deep work time, resulting in procrastination, delays, and general confusion and demotivation. Let's take a pause here and think about deep work. What is it, and why is it important?

According to Cal Newport, Deep work is defined as the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. What is bad about distraction? When you are distracted from a task for 5 minutes, the overall delivery time is not delayed by these 5 minutes – it is delayed by far longer to return into the working mindset and resume the work with the same efficiency. Constructing a world in your head takes time, and you lose it if you are forced to take a break in the form of a meeting. It becomes especially irritating if, in addition to this, the meeting proves to be non-constructive.

To make it constructive, you need to architect the meeting in advance. And just like any good architect, you need to understand the building blocks you work with.

In our case, these are the typical stages of a facilitated session. When you understand which stages you have, you can prepare for each – and those are very simple. In a nutshell, it is as straightforward as "a stage before the meeting" – or preparation; a stage during the meeting – or the meeting itself, and a stage after the meeting, or "follow up."

Very simple – before the meeting, during the meeting, and after the meeting.

Now, each one also consists of sub-stages or steps that you need to take to finish the stage.

Let's look at the "before the meeting" stage.

The majority of preparation work happens during the first step – design. This is where you assess the needs for a meeting, design the activities for the meeting, and plan logistics for it.

After the meeting is designed, you need to refine it.

You take your plan, and you walk key stakeholders or colleagues through it to iron out any issues or dependencies that you may have missed. Based on the feedback, you update your meeting design.

Just before the meeting, you do the final prep. This is when you make sure everything has been organized according to your plan – the rooms are available or virtual rooms are scheduled, the technology works, supplementary materials are ready to go, and no one has rejected the meeting last minute.

When you go into the meeting itself, it is also typically run in phases. A controlled start allows you to set the scene and get people on board before progressing to the active part of the meeting where the discussions happen and decisions are made, followed up by the wrap-up phase where the conclusions are drawn.

Your work as a meeting organizer does not finish with the people leaving the room. After the meeting, there is another stage for you to follow up on the results and make sure the action items decided are respected by the participants.

These are the key stages of a facilitated session. Thank you, we'll speak again soon.

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Written by

Igor Arkhipov