Simple and powerful techniques that frame meaningful meetings
A well-planned beginning, middle and end to a meeting help participants be fully engaged, focus on the topic of the meeting, and create a sense of ownership around the purpose or issue being discussed.
Every story has a beginning, middle and end. The same can be said about a meeting. Thoughtfully framing the beginning, middle and end of a meeting can make it more meaningful.
The beginning of a meeting is an opportunity to set the stage. A clear beginning will focus participants on the purpose or content to be addressed. It will also create a sense of ownership about expected accomplishments.
Techniques used to begin a meeting are called “openers.” Openers are introductions with intention; they are introductions that include one-more-thing. For example, at the start of a meeting, ask participants to introduce themselves and state what they hope to accomplish during the meeting. Record and review these at the end of the meeting. Other examples of “one-more-things” is to ask the individual to describe her greatest accomplishments of the week or to describe his favorite food. The “one-more-thing” encourages attendees to stop their busy lives for a moment and begin to focus on the task at hand.
The middle of the meeting can be enhanced by occasionally “taking the temperature” of the group. Ask participants if they have question, need clarification or feel on-track with how the meeting is progressing. One way to accomplish this is to go around the room, giving each person a chance to comment or question. Taking the temperature” works especially well when a decision needs to be made or a disagreement has occurred.
In addition, during the middle of a meeting, items may be introduced that are not related to the topic, but which the group does not want to forget. Write these items on a board or flip chart for everyone to see and indicate that these items will be reviewed at the end of the meeting when the group decides if further discussion or action will be needed.
Ending a meeting is just as important as beginning it. Endings wrap-up what was accomplished or decided, who will do what when, and what needs to happen next. It is also when the items that were not related to the topic are reviewed.
Techniques used to end a meeting are called “closers.” Closers help participants express the value of the meeting for them, what they learned or their level of satisfaction. A closer could be as simple as reviewing the list of expected accomplishments noted in the beginning, or asking participants to share what they feel was positive about the meeting and what they might like to change. Other closers include questions such as what participants learned, appreciated, would do differently or will do as a result of the meeting.
A meeting that contains a well-planned beginning, middle and end increases participation, focuses on the meeting agenda, and creates a sense of ownership around the purpose or issue being discussed. A variety of additional meeting opener and closer ideas may be found by doing an online search.
For more information from Michigan State University Extension educators about running effective meetings, see these articles: