When setting the context and opening any collaborative session, it’s imperative that the leader provide basic information that outlines the why, what and how of the meeting. Our POP tool, which stands for Purpose, Outcome and Process does exactly this. If this fundamental information is not communicated right off the bat, the leader risks losing engagement and trust. However, by simply observing this process, a meeting leader will establish transparency and communicate to the group that thoughtful preparation has been made, further ensuring attendees that their time will not be wasted.
Here’s how to make your meetings POP:
Setting the Tone and Expectations with Purpose
The meeting purpose, or the “why” of the meeting, needs to get at the heart of the reason you’re convening. A vague or a biased purpose won’t excite participants or help them understand why they should dedicate their time and energy to your meeting.
Here’s an example: your organization has been losing ground to competitors over the last few quarters. When polled, previous clients cite ineffective handling of complaints as the number one reason they left you for the competition. You’ve been asked to facilitate a meeting to tackle this situation. Good thing your VP has heard such great things about a new complaint tracking system that can be installed right into the company’s existing CRM! During your scoping interview, it’s practically all she could talk about, even though major decisions such as this are supposed to be made by the whole team rather than just the boss.
Now you’re sitting down to prepare your meeting POP, starting with defining the purpose…
Biased Meeting Purpose: To talk about the pros and cons of the proposed complaint tracking system and to plan for its implementation. Can you hear participants asking themselves: “What do you need me for? Why bother debating the pros and cons if the boss is just going to swoop in and mandate this tracking system?”
Vague Meeting Purpose: To discuss the dip in sales and think about appropriate responses. Likely responses to receiving a meeting agenda with this purpose at the top include: “Great, discussion and thinking – like this is worth my time! We’re hemorrhaging clients and they want to chat?”
Clear, Neutral Purpose: To sustain our existing customer base by identifying and agreeing to an effective customer complaint process/system. Notice how this meeting purpose doesn’t assume the solution that participants will reach, or leave them hanging as to why we’re meeting. The verbs ‘identify’ and ‘agree’ also enable the group a glimpse as to what they will be doing to achieve the purpose. People reading this know why they should invest in your meeting.
Outcomes that Excite and Clarify
Meeting outcomes, or the “what” of the meeting, speak to the tangible and intangible results you hope to attain by the end of the meeting. Tangible results should include the actual things people will leave the meeting with such as an action, a strategy, a document, a prioritized list, etc.. Intangible results include the emotional state or attitude people will leave the meeting with such as a greater willingness to commit, excitement, better buy-in, etc..
Sample Meeting Outcomes: By the end of this meeting, we will have:
Outcomes are critical for defining the meeting process as they tell us what the ultimate destination is – how we get there will be defined by our steps in the ‘process’.
The Process – Giving Structure to Your Meeting
The final ‘P’ in POP is process. Process speaks to ‘how’ we are to achieve the outcomes and ultimately the purpose of the meeting. Your process focuses on two aspects of meeting management:
Unlike the meeting purpose and outcome, I don’t suggest sharing your meeting process notes with participants prior to the meeting. A thorough and well-worded agenda will do the trick. I am, though, a huge proponent of sharing your detailed process notes with your client/meeting sponsor to ensure buy-in before the meeting. If there are no surprises, your client is much less likely to sabotage your process during the meeting. You’re not giving away trade secrets here, just clarifying the tools and steps that will result in achieving the agreed-to meeting outcomes.
Let us know any techniques you use to ensure you set your meetings up for success!
Do you have a unique meeting challenge not covered by one of our blog posts? We’re always looking for different dilemmas to discuss in our articles!