Designing Effective Meetings

Developing successful meetings is an important part of a facilitator’s role. Below is information that may be useful when planning meetings.

Be Clear on the Meeting Purpose

Communicate a clear purpose at the beginning of the meeting. Consider including the purpose on the meeting agenda.

Prepare a Meeting Agenda

Develop a meeting agenda that includes the key activities for the meeting and the amount of time scheduled for each activity. This will keep the meeting on track and make sure you get to every activity as planned. Share the meeting agenda with attendees so they also know the meeting’s activities and timing.

Strong facilitators approach meeting agendas with flexibility. Sometimes you might need to change the activities or timing to better fit the group’s dynamics. For this reason, plan a few back-up activities and be ready to shift approaches depending on the group needs.

It is useful to have a more detailed agenda for facilitators and a less detailed one for participants. This allows facilitators more flexibility to change course during the meeting. See the Facilitator and Participant Agenda Examples below and the Facilitation Methods section for ideas.

Consider the Invitation

Think about who should be at the meeting and tailor the invitation to those people (a communication and engagement plan may help with this). In many communities, personal invitations are considered more respectful. They indicate the importance of attending the gathering. A personalized invitation will likely be more effective than a post on the community’s Facebook page or a group email.

The wording of invitations can set the stage for the meeting. An invitation ideally communicates the purpose and context of the meeting and inspires people to attend. Try to make the invitation welcoming, simple and easy-to-read. Be sure it provides the necessary information on the logistics of the meeting (time, location, etc.).

Example Meeting Invitation

Dear (insert name of invitee),

We would like to invite you to a community discussion about identifying the vision and goals for our language revitalization plan. We are working to develop a language revitalization plan that will support our community members to learn our language and pass it on to future generations. As a respected member of our community, we would greatly appreciate your ideas about the vision and goals that can be included in this plan.

The meeting will be held at the Community Hall from 5:00–8:00 p.m. on November 20th. Dinner will be provided. The meeting will involve large group and small group discussions in which your ideas are welcome.

We want to hear from you! Please let us know by November 14th if you can make it.

Consider the Logistics

  • Cultural protocols: Which cultural protocols might be relevant for this meeting?
  • Location: Is the location well known and easy to get to? Is there wheelchair accessibility? Are there any other factors that may stop people from getting to the meeting?
  • Physical space: Is the space comfortable? Is there adequate seating, cleanliness, warmth and space for everyone invited?
  • Audio/visual equipment: Is equipment needed? Does someone know how to use it?
  • Food: Will there be food, snacks or refreshments provided? Ensure there will be enough for everyone invited. Are there any dietary restrictions to consider?
  • Childcare: Will there be childcare on site?
  • Date/time: Is the meeting taking place during business hours, in the evening or on the weekend? Consider how the meeting timing might impact who can and cannot attend. For example, parents may need childcare in the evenings. Those who work full time may not be able to attend a meeting during the day. Be aware if there are competing communal, seasonal or traditional events taking place.
  • Transportation: Is transportation required to help people get to the meeting?
  • Prizes/raffles/games: Will there be games or door prizes at the meeting?

Plan How to Gather Information

It is an important responsibility to respectfully gather information shared by community members and then integrate it into the plan. This process ensures the language plan honours community voices. Before the meeting, determine how you will record the information the community shares. Will note-takers be present? Will community members write on sticky notes or flip charts? For more information on possible approaches, see the Gathering Information from Meetings section.