Designing Transformative Meetings and Workshops

Could you energize your participants without caffeine?

Have you been enjoying the return to in-person events and workshops? It’s been so nice to see groups of people connecting and sharing with colleagues and industry peers. I’ve been noticing a blend of in-person and online meetings with many organizations to keep costs and efficiencies in check.  When asked to design an experience and facilitate meetings for either format, my approach is largely the same.  After completing experience design training through Scaling Intimacy, I’ve found the tools and formula for each experience so effective, I use them every time.

Here are four tips to consider next time you plan a meeting, workshop or event:

Identify the desired outcome

Why are you bringing people together? What do you hope to achieve? Will you make it worth everyone’s time? Will they know what to do after the meeting?  A well-designed experience encourages some kind of transformation.  From indifferent to engaged. From scattered to focused. From isolated to connected.  What is possible in the time you have and what would be transformative for your participants? Keep this top of mind when designing the experience.

Establish clear guidelines

Over the years, I’ve used ground rules to lay the foundation for meetings, but sometimes this gets dropped. Now, I see how important guidelines are to facilitate compelling meetings and events.  Clearly communicated with example behaviours, guidelines create both space and boundaries for all participants to feel welcome and included. These are not logistics, but specific ideas about behaviours that are acceptable for the meeting. If shared slowly and clearly at the start of any session, you’ll likely see shoulders drop and big exhales as participants feel the ground levelling beneath them.

Create space for connection

Many of the meetings I’ve facilitated bring together a diverse group of people who don’t normally work together. In a virtual meeting, it can be especially challenging to keep to keep everyone engaged.  If I design time into the agenda and create space for connection, we’ll more likely reach our desired outcome. Using quick exercises at the start, breakout rooms or small groups for discussion and chat tools for conversation are essential components of my meetings now. When used thoughtfully, these moments gradually build connection and result in more active participation.

Ascend to the summit

I love hiking. Some of the best moments are the little things I see and hear along the way to a mountain peak. To design a transformative meeting, I often move sections around on the agenda. At the start, connection exercises are essential. Next, I’ll outline a path with items for learning and introspection. Each transition is designed to encourage all participants to summit the peak together. At the top, we pause for reflection and more connection. Let it sink in. Remember where we started and how far we’ve come.  It may take a few tries to get it right or a stumble along the way – but it’s worth the effort to witness the transformation.

Is your organization aiming to host a transformative meeting, planning session or workshop? Let’s connect and find the best path forward.