We provide space – quiet, relaxed and inviting space – for meetings at Holy Wisdom Monastery. We recognize the value of good planning for these meetings, and so we share the following suggestions from Drew Howick, a former director of our Benedictine Life Foundation board. This simple framework has helped us plan many of our own meetings here at the monastery.
The following was adapted with permission from the book “The New Compleat Facilitator: A Handbook for Facilitators,” written by Drew Howick, Stuart Daily, and Abby Sprik, and published in its second edition in 2002 by Howick Associates. Over 20,000 copies have been sold to date.
A good agenda, distributed to group members before the meeting, helps them prepare, clarifies expectations, and builds interest. During the meeting, it helps keep you and the group focused, and helps you keep track of time and processes.
Prior to each meeting, work with the group leader to prepare the meeting agenda. Determine the purpose and desired outcome for each agenda item.
At the beginning of each meeting, review the agenda with the group and invite suggestions for additions; the group can decide whether the suggestions should be added to the meeting’s agenda or “parked” for handling later (either in a future meeting or through some other means).
At the end of each meeting, take suggestions from the group for the next meeting’s agenda.
Work with the group leader to draft objectives for the meeting. Every activity or discussion should result in an outcome – a decision or an action that moves the group’s work forward.
Building the Agenda
You can post the agenda on a flip chart at the front of the room or type up something more formal for distribution to each group member prior to the meeting. When hosting a meeting at Holy Wisdom Monastery, you can also project the meeting agenda and other handouts onto a screen or the wall, using the provided projector and laptop. The agenda can be very detailed or provide just enough information to keep the meeting on track.
Sequence items on the agenda in an order that provides focus for the meeting and makes the most of the group’s energy and interest levels.
If you place the most trivial items at the beginning of the meeting, participants might be low on energy by the time they get to the important stuff. If you place the most critical item first, the group might do its “warming up” during the activity, resulting in an unproductive discussion.
If you save the most important items for the end and the meeting runs over, the items won’t get the attention and high quality consideration they deserve.
At a minimum, every agenda should include:
- The items to be covered.
- The objective and purpose for each item.
- The amount of time you expect it will take to reach the objective.
The group may also want to know:
- Who in the group is responsible for leading the discussion of each item.
- What techniques will be used for each step.
If you have time to send out the agenda ahead of the meeting, include:
- Meeting time and place.
- List of people attending the meeting, including guests.
- A list of assignments members took on in the previous last meeting.
- A reminder of who promised to bring snacks.