How to run a workshop meeting

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This continuing series on meetings offers this type of meeting: The Workshop. I look at a workshop meeting as a meeting where a group is going to work on a particular subject throughout the meeting to achieve some end result. Typical workshop meetings could include the infamous “what’s our Mission meeting,” or where you gather information from a variety of sources to complete an information worksheet, or where you get together to resolve some issue with a solution.

Consequently, the Workshop Meeting’s purpose is to gather information into a deliverable.

Let’s take a look at how to make this meeting successful.

Focus on the end result for the meeting. Be specific as to the outcome.

If you are going to bring a group of people together for a workshop, each should have a role in the meeting and each should have a vested interest in the outcome of the meeting. Thus, being very specific as to what the end result or deliverable is for the meeting is paramount in making the meeting successful.

You can’t get together to “discuss the goals for the department.” No one knows what that means except the meeting is something about goals. You can’t get together and “talk about the issues facing the project.” You can have a hundred issues and accomplish nothing.

Instead, you must have the end-game in mind. When the meeting is done, what specifically is it you want to walk out of the room with from the meeting?

“At the end of the meeting, we need to identify the top three issues slowing down progress on our project.” Now you can talk about a hundred issues — but you have to leave with the top three. You don’t have to solve the three issues; you need agreement that those are the top three issues.

“At the end of the meeting, we need to answer how we will measure success for the department goals.” Not talk about whether the goal is right or wrong, poorly worded, or fair or unfair; no, how will we measure success for the goal.

This allows the moderator (you) to manage the meeting so the end result is met. That end result is also an accomplishment and everyone feels better when they are accomplishing something.

Make sure the right people are there to deliver information

If you are gathering information (we need to determine the shutdown/startup procedures for the home loan servicing application), you need the right people in the virtual room to be there to provide it. If not, you get a hanging chad with an asterisk next to the result.

If you are trying to come up with the top three issues on the project, you can’t leave a Stakeholder out of the room. That stakeholder has a vested interest in your project and that voice needs hearing. Without it, that stakeholder can derail your progress in a heartbeat.

And if there is no role for a person — a person without the expertise or not having information to provide who can’t contribute to the end result — that person should not be in the virtual room. We too often invite someone (usually more than one) as a courtesy. For information. For context. Those are the people that drive the meeting off track — they want to contribute something and they do. The wrong stuff needed for your end result.

Rabbit holes not allowed

All meetings have the potential to get off track. You can’t let it happen for very long or you’ll never get the needed concentration to achieve the result you want from the meeting.

If the derailment is an issue, document the issue, assign responsibility for resolving it — and move on. And don’t put it in the “Parking Lot” — no one ever addresses parking lot issues. Because it’s out in the parking lot somewhere. Nope, if it’s an issue, it’s an issue and needs resolution. Just not in this meeting.

Workshop meetings are my favorite type of meeting

Run well, workshop meetings should be everyone’s favorite type of meeting. There is a specific topic with a specific outcome needed and a set time to accomplish the mission. The right people in the room and everyone contributes. People walk away from that with an accomplishment under their belt for the day. And there aren’t many days where you can point to accomplishments, are there…

What have been your most effective workshop meetings?

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