Don’t confuse a meeting with a coffee break

Imagine this scenario: Six people gather around a table in the conference room for their weekly staff meeting. They sip coffee, allergy chat about football, politics or the family vacation, enjoying the opportunity to have a relaxed, informal conversation with their colleagues. Eventually, they begin to discuss business-related matters, but with no clear purpose and no tangible results. One person starts checking email on his Blackberry, another writes on her laptop. After an hour or so, the participants get back to their desks and the “real work” that awaits them there.

What´s wrong with this picture?

This was not a meeting. It was an extended coffee break. There is no apparent leadership. No one is taking responsibility for making good use of the group´s time. People tune out or “do their own thing”.

In recent posts I have shared some thoughts about the importance of agendas in meetings. Agendas are a way of communicating to participants the reason they have been called together and what they are being asked to contribute. Agendas can help make meetings much more efficient and productive. Nevertheless, sometimes people resist having an agenda. They feel that is a straightjacket, limiting rather than encouraging their participation. They would prefer to “just talk”.

Maybe they are right!

In high pressure environments, or when the group is enmeshed in a conflict or facing difficult decisions, an old-fashioned conversation may be just what a team needs.

Now imagine this scenario. The same six people enter the conference room and the leader says, “I know we are under a lot of pressure because of [a current challenge]. In our recent meetings we have either avoided this topic or gone around in circles, failing to reach a conclusion. Today I suggest that we take this opportunity to “just talk” to each other about how we perceive the issue. Work in pairs, small groups or all together, as you wish. No set agenda. No expected results.

To improve the odds that something will change, I ask the following:

  • Give each other your full attention. This means cell phones and laptops off.
  • Seek to understand each other, not to convince us of the rightness of your point of view.
  • After 45 minutes, we will stop to reflect on what we have heard.
  • Feel free to leave if you do not want to contribute to the conversation.

Any questions? ¨

What changed?

The process was altered with a clear intention and some guidelines to support participation. There is no guarantee that this ¨just talk¨ strategy will work, any more than we can know in advance if a written agenda will move a group to useful outcomes.

Key message:If you do not have a clear purpose and process for convening a meeting, just let people do their other work – or take a coffee break.

Need help making your meetings more focused and results-oriented? Contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your coaching needs.

Related Post

When NOT to call a meeting

This is a message for those who never chose to be a group facilitator, pharm but nevertheless have had responsibility for meetings thrust upon them

Before your next meeting, drugs take out a piece of paper or open your computer and complete the following four sentences.
1. The purpose of this meeting is to

a. Discuss ___________
b. Decide_____________

If there is nothing important to discuss or decide, do not call the meeting!

2. The people I need in the room for this discussion/decision are: ________________________________________________________________________

If the key people are not available, do not call the meeting!

3. The information needed for this discussion/decision is: ____________________________________________________________________

If the information is not available, do not call the meeting!

4. The time estimated to accomplish the meeting objective is:

a. Less than 1 hour
b. 1-3 hours
c. More than 3 hours
d. Other

If the participants´schedules and workload make it difficult for them to commit to a long meeting, consider spreading the process over several, shorter meetings. But DO set time limits – and respect them!

If you are satisfied that a meeting is necessary and feasible given the human and other resources at hand, then create a simple agenda designed to make the best possible use of the time available.

Unclear on the concept of “Agenda”’?

Theagenda is the map that keeps the group on track, moving toward the agreed upon meeting goals. Adjustments are made along the way to adapt to the emerging realities of the situation, but the agenda is the group´s common reference point. Where are we? Where are we going? How will we get there?

Sample agenda

Here´s an example of a one-hour agenda to discuss (but not necessarily decide) what to do about a given situation:

  • Clarify the purpose of the meeting and present the proposed agenda (10 minutes)
  • Present background information (15 minutes)
  • Generate options for resolving the issue (20 minutes)
  • Define next steps and assign tasks (10 minutes)
  • Set date for next meeting (if needed)
  • Thank the participants and let them get back to their other work!

For more tips on effective agendas, consult the Bonfire articles in the resource section on the IIFAC website . Access is free, but you need tosign in. Look forthe category “effective meetings/agendas.”

Need help deciding when to cancel a meeting? Contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your coaching needs.

Good luck with your next meeting!

Related Post

Ideal number of meeting participants?

In a recent training on Effective Meetings I was asked, sale | “What is the ideal number of meeting participants?”

My short answer is that there is no ideal number. What really matters is getting the right people in the room, viagra ed meaning those that can make a significant contribution to the discussion.

But then the person asking reframed her question, allergist “What is the maximum number of participants in a meeting?”

I suspect that behind this question lurks the convener´s fear of working with a large group and the common misconception that a small group is easier to manage than a large one.

Think about it. In your experience, is a small group capable of

  • Wasting time?
  • Getting off track?
  • Getting stuck in conflict?
  • Making bad decisions?

By the same token, can you remember a large group that

  • Focused on the key issue at hand?
  • Generated and evaluated ideas?
  • Dealt effectively with conflict?
  • Made good decisions?

The success factor of a meeting is determined by the quality of the planning before the event (including clear objective, well-structured agenda, inviting the right people) and skillful facilitation of the process.

In short, it is not how many should attend but who and why.

Beatrice Briggs
Director, IIFAC

Need help deciding how many people to invite to a meeting? Contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your coaching needs.

Related Post

Five things I love about being a facilitator

  1. The puzzled expression on people´s faces when I tell them what I do. Of course, health I often wish that group facilitation were a more readily understood occupation. But I love the “teachable moment” that arises when someone asks, “Facilitator? What is that? “
  2. The relief felt by meeting and conference organizers when I agree to help plan and facilitate their event. These clientsare thrilled that a certified professional will advise them on how to make their meeting both participatory and productive.
  3. The cautious optimism of meeting participants when I step forward and introduce myself at the start of an event. These people are hopeful that I will make good use of their time, respect their interventions and save them from “death by PowerPoint”.
  4. The buzz of conversation when meeting participants beginto share their ideas. The moment in which the flow of information stops coming from the front of the room and instead springs from the hearts and minds of those in attendance always brings a smile of satisfaction to my face. The essence of my work is creating the conditions that permit meaningful conversations to occur.
  5. The thoughtful silence just before a group makes a decision. After the relevant information has been presented, passionate opinions have been shared, and the proposal under discussion has been honed by the collective wisdom of those present, comes the moment when as facilitator, I say, “Are we ready to make a decision?” This is the divide between the talking and the doing, between the conversation and the commitment. The silence is full of possibilities.


Beatrice Briggs
Director, IIFAC

Interested in becoming a group facilitator? Contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your professional development needs.

Related Post

You can prevent meeting hijacking

Here’s a touchy subject: when is it OK to interrupt a speaker?  Review these guidelines and be assured that sometimes, order arthritis interruption is exactly what’s called for.

When he/she is

  • Exceeding their allotted time
  • Being offensive
  • Speaking off topic
  • Repeating themselves
  • Interrupting others

This is not easy, but failing to act often means that the agenda is hijacked by the dominant, talkative few. Skilled meeting facilitators learn when and how to interrupt. You can too!

Need help keeping your meetings focused? Contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your coaching needs.

Related Post

One question an outside facilitator should never answer

Groups who are struggling to find a solution to an issue will sometimes turn to the facilitator for advice, allergist medicine asking, pills sickness “What do you think we should do?”

While their confidence in your wisdom may be flattering resist the temptation to share your opinion!  Experienced facilitators know better than to take sides in the debate.

Instead, pill they propose effective strategies, discussion points and creative ways for the group to find a solution for themselves.  You can too!

Need help staying neutral about the issues under discussion when faciiltating a meeting? Contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your coaching needs.

Related Post

Page 7 of 7« First...34567
IIFAC logo


Home     |     About     |     FAQ     |     Services     |     Products     |     Free Resources     |     Contact

Calle Doctores no. 99A casa 8, Colonia Lomas de Jiutepec. Jiutepec, Morelos CP. 62566 | Phone: (+52) 777 320 6712

Our logo features an Aztec glyph representing the sun. This golden image evokes its transformative power and reminds us of Mexico’s rich history and culture.