Make your meetings more productive
People tend to cringe at the thought of having to go to a meeting. Meetings can be dull and unproductive. Often, a few people do all the talking and others never saying a word.
Elissa Garofalo, the executive director of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, presented her techniques for conducting a productive meeting, one where everyone feels heard and the outcome is worth the time.
Garofalo is a trained facilitator and uses the “Technology of Participation” methods to help attendees develop a community consensus. She was the featured speaker at the Carbon County Women in Business luncheon in March at The Gorge at Hofford Mill in Weissport. Her talk was titled, “Focused Conversation - An Excellent Way to Ensure Meetings of All Kinds are Effective.”
“A focused conversation is a guiding conversation technique based on a specific set of questions,” she said. “It helps people process information and reach their own thoughtful conclusions. Before you go into it, you want to think about what it is you want to accomplish. And what impact you want it to have.”
Garofalo said she uses a system she calls ORID - Objective, Reflective, Interpretive and Decisional.
The first step is Objective. Garofalo said she wants to hear from everyone attending the meeting, so she starts with some simple, open-ended questions, such as “What would you like to accomplish today,” or “What made you decide to come to this meeting.”
“If you’re in a small group make sure everybody has a chance to say something. It’s really good for people to hear their own voice before you get into the meeting, because how often do you sit there and there is someone who is quiet the whole time and you never draw them out,” she said. “If you ask an easy question right at the beginning, people are more willing to contribute.”
This step also helps to reduce any stress people are feeling and to establish the facts of what the group wants to accomplish.
The second step is Reflective.
Garofalo said this is where the group narrows down what is most important to them.
“It invites deeper participation to think, to feel, to believe, to gauge the importance of something. And that gets into how we feel about it, what concerns you,” she said.
The next step is Interpretive. This is where brainstorming comes into play.
Garofalo said she thinks of this step as the story of the reason for the meeting. This is where people bring in their insights, and they develop strategies. The group looks at what has been done in the past. Did it work or not? It is also where they develop new ideas to try.
And before ending the meeting, the final step is Decisional.
This is the “now what.” This is where the group decides what the solution will be moving forward, and who is going to do what in order to accomplish it.
“This is when you clarify the expectations. What things will you do differently because of X, Y or Z? Which skills do you need to develop to make this happen? What are the next steps? It allows you to get beyond the topical issues in an organized fashion,” Garofalo said.
Set a timeline for tasks to be accomplish, she added.
Write down the names of who is going to do what task. Making people responsible for their task helps to ensure that tasks are completed and the meeting was successful.
“There’s always that collective we,” she said. “But if everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.”
Garofalo said the ORID technique is the simplest one of facilitation methods, but it is something she uses often with her own meetings.
It has helped her to not only feel like something was accomplished, but also to gauge the success of the meeting.