To gossip is human… to evaluate is divine – and requires facilitation

In the past few months, we have written articles on the importance of the “human factor” in the planning and facilitation of meetings. (See February, March and April issues of Coffee Break.) Now we would like to highlight another element that is often neglected when thinking of ways to engage, respect and treat people well: the evaluation at the end of the session.

We know that participants have opinions about the virtues and shortcomings of each meeting. If we do not ask for their comments before they leave the meeting room, these thoughts are expressed as hallway gossip, complaints in the cafeteria or —worst of all— the silent belief that there is no way to improve the group´s work sessions.

We recommend that you harvest these opinions when they are fresh – that is, before the end of the meeting. The challenge is to accomplish this when all people most want is to leave the room as soon as possible.

To overcome this resistance, the evaluation must be

  • Short
  • Dynamic
  • Participatory
  • Uncensored
  • Visible

10 specific tips

  1. Include “Evaluation” as an item in the agenda. If it is not in writing, it probably will not happen..
  2. Prepare in advance a large sheet of flip chart paper in this format:
  3. At the time shown on the agenda, make this announcement: “Before closing the meeting, we are going to conduct a short evaluation of today´s session. Your comments on what went well and what could be improved will help us in the planning and facilitation of future meetings.”
  4. Remind the group that comments can refer to any aspect of the meeting, including communications prior to the event, physical space, snacks, facilitation, participation, quality of the discussion, etc.”
  5. Take care to write down each comment, including those that seem like a joke. These “funny” observations usually contain some grain of truth and should not be ignored.
  6. Do not write down the name of who said what, only the comments.
  7. To make the process go faster, ask two people to scribe the comments, one on each side of the flip chart.
  8. If two people express opposing opinions about the same issue (for example, one says, “Attendance was good” and another that “Attendance could be improved”, write “attendance” in both columns.
  9. Do not permit the group to debate, discuss or give explanations about the comments. The idea is to end the meeting, not prolong it!
  10. At the beginning of the next meeting, review the sheet(s), pointing out which of the items mentioned have been modified. This reinforces the message that the group´s feedback matters and that evaluation is an instrument for positive change.
Need help integrating evaluations into your meetings? Contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your coaching needs.

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