Good Meetings – Like Organizations – Are Guided by a Mission Statement

One way to know that you’ve arrived at the very essence of an issue or solution is when you can articulate it completely and accurately in very few words.  That’s why good mission statements are short, some even crafted in a single phrase.  One description I like is “short enough to remember, and strong enough to inspire”.  And that’s why it sometimes takes a while to get it right.

I and my colleagues at have been in the business of helping people run excellent meetings (initially face-to-face, and lately both virtual and asynchronous) for almost 20 years.  We have designed techniques, developed conceptual frameworks,  built models, written guidebooks.     But it was only recently, during the development of our latest training program Leading Collaborative Virtual Meetings and Teams that we really nailed down the “mission statement” of the virtual meeting facilitator.

As leaders or facilitators of virtual meetings, our goal is always to:

  • Facilitate an engaging conversation around
  • …a focused agenda
  • …with only the necessary people
  • …who are prepared to accomplish
  • … a clear set of outcomes

Everything that we do and train others to do as meeting consultants cascades from this statement.  We emphasize the importance of engaging participants with interactive activities, creating opportunities for them to multi-task on task.   We talk about the importance of gathering data ahead of time, perhaps by interviewing key stakeholders or by putting out a survey to identify issues, to allow us to create a focused agenda.  We ask that meeting leaders think hard about who needs to take part in the meeting, and whether they need to participate for the entire time. We preach the value of pre-work as a way to prepare participants to be engaged and productive, to surface issues and to establish trust.  And before doing any of this, we insist that the meeting sponsor articulate clearly the objectives and outcomes of the meeting.

It took a lot of field work to gain the perspective to express this simple mission statement  – I hope you will find it easy to remember and, hopefully, inspiring as well.

posted by Danuta McCall


3 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. Hi Danuta – I like the statement about the goal of a facilitator of a virtual meeting.

    I can’t see any difference between that statement, and what the goal would be for a facilitator of a face-to-face meeting. Do you think there would be a difference? I wonder what I might be missing.

    Stuart Reid

  2. Admin2 #

    Hi Stuart,
    An excellent point. The mission is the same, but the execution is in some ways different. In a sense, the virtual setting challenges us to pay attention in new ways. For example, creating an engaging conversation amongst participants who cannot see you or each other requires you, the facilitator, to find new ways to check the energy level and tone of the group and keep people from multi-tasking “off task”. We have new opportunities and limitations in terms of designing a focused agenda. What might have been one meeting face to face, now has to be divided into virtual-proof chunks (usually no more than 90 minutes, after which productivity decreases; on the other hand, virtual meeting technology allows us to get the group working ahead of the meeting in data gathering, identifying discussion items or reflecting on background material, so that we can now compress the agenda and start with well-primed and already engaged participants.

    So I agree heartily with your comment. We have not changed our overall purpose as facilitators, but we need to look at how to execute on our mission in new ways.


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