Meetings are essential for group processes, exchanges and decision-making. Here we suggest ideas how a meeting should be structured and what elements are necessary to allow each participant to be included, to take part and contribute, and feel welcome.
Goal of the exercise
Structure for the meetings to be more inclusive and welcoming for all the participants. Planning and moderation of the meeting.
Number of participants:
2 to 15 persons
Age of participants:
Aged 15 or above
Duration of the method
Meetings can last from 15 min to several days depending on the needs of the group and the goals of the meeting.
Materials / Location
A meeting can be offline, online or even hybrid. Here we focus on physical meetings. Agenda (and possibly a protocol of a previous meeting). Paper and pens for note-taking or computer. Timer.
Visualisation materials (flip charts, sticky notes, felt pens, paper, etc.). The venue should as far as possible accommodate the needs of the participants to make them feel comfortable (accessibility, table sizes, seating arrangements, accessibility, safety, noise level, etc.). A pleasant environment will contribute to this, too. Some form of catering (drinks, snacks) should be available, especially if the meeting lasts more than a couple of hours.
When setting the time of the meeting, respect every participant’s availability (working hours, family obligations, public holidays, etc.).
Prepare the agenda well ahead of the meeting. Ask all participants if and how they intend to contribute and whether any specific topics should be raised. Ensure that there will be enough time for short presentations, questions and discussions, as well as for breaks, but also set time limits to avoid endless discussions – a topic can always be rescheduled for another meeting. Facilitation methods will contribute to include everybody and make the meeting more democratic. If appropriate, include time for warm-ups or energisers to help participants focus on the meeting. A well-structured meeting is a key to its success. Think of the goals you want to achieve with the meeting. Send the agenda to all participants some time before the meeting and a reminder of the time of the meeting a working day before it.
Step by step
1. Opening the meeting
Start by welcoming the participants. Everybody should feel appreciated. Continue with a short presentation round or a warm-up (or energiser) so that participants get to know each other and feel comfortable in the group. Ask for preferred pronouns. Make sure you are able to pronounce every name correctly. For a bigger meeting use name tags.
Introduce and agree on the use of hand signals for specific contributions (agreement, disagreement, questions, etc.).
Establish rules for the conversation that help reminding everybody what is important and give a frame to the meeting. Ask participants to speak slowly and clearly and not interrupt each other. Encourage them to voice their opinions and to join discussions with the aim of promoting alternative perspectives …
Assign different roles, or tasks, to the participants, such as that of a moderator (this could be the person who prepared the meeting); note-taker for the protocol; time-keeper; or vision-keeper (who reminds participants of the meeting’s rules and intervenes if necessary).
Present the agenda, explain who will be responsible for certain parts of the meeting and remind participants of the goals you have. Asking participants what they expect of the meeting helps steering the meeting.
2. During the meeting
As a moderator be aware of your own biases and pay attention to participants who tend to dominate
Make sure that everyone can hear what is being said, is listened to when they speak and that even shy or quiet people are able to voice their opinion. Moderation methods help structuring the meeting and achieving your goals.
Disruptions should be addressed immediately because they are a learning and communication barrier. If not been dealt with, they are likely to prevent or falsify the problem-solving process.
Respect the time of all participants and end the meeting at the agreed hour.
3. Ending the meeting
Summarise the results, decisions and tasks so that everybody is on the same level.
If a follow-up meeting is planned, organise a rotation of the different roles, thus offering an opportunity to experience the meeting from different points of view.
End with a round of thanks and collect feedback!
Share the protocol with everybody after the meeting.
If several languages are spoken during the meeting, ask another participant to do a “whisper translation”, that is sitting next to the person and whispering into their ear.
"Essential for every group and a diverse participation”
Credit and References
Inclusive Meetings: https://www.atlassian.com/de/team-playbook/plays/inclusive-meetings
Examples of hand signals: https://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/handsig.pdf
Systemic consensing https://clips.gen-europe.org/systemic-consensing/
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