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Guila Muir

Developing trainers, presenters and facilitators to make a difference

The Most Important Tool for Successful Meetings

by Guila Muir

Do you wish you ran better meetings? By using an outcome based agenda, you will experience an immediate, extraordinary improvement.

What is an Outcome-Based Agenda?

Put simply, an outcome-based agenda is a plan that states “what will have changed” by the end of the meeting.

You, the meeting leader, develop and execute the meeting outcomes. These serve as your job description for the meeting’s duration.

Meeting outcomes always begin with the words, “By the end of this meeting, we will have…” The verb you choose to finish this statement is of utmost importance.

Do you see the difference in the examples below? They are listed in the order of complexity:

  • “By the end of this meeting, we will have discussed…”
  • “By the end of this meeting, we will have brainstormed…”
  • “By the end of this meeting, we will have decided…”

The biggest mistake meeting leaders make is to promise more than the meeting can deliver, based on the time allotted. By taking the time to figure out exactly what is achievable in the time allotted, and by stating it using the future perfect form of the verb (“will have ________ed)” the meeting leader has a much better chance at success.

How to Develop an Outcome-Based Agenda

  1. Get input from stakeholders. (Stakeholders may include meeting members, their bosses, or anyone with a “stake” in the ultimate meeting product.) Ask them, “What do you think should be included in our next agenda?”Stakeholder input is essential. However, it’s YOUR job to synthesize the input you receive, and to weigh and decide what can realistically be accomplished in the time that you have for the meeting.
  2. Using stakeholder input as the core, create the meeting outcome statement. Always begin with the words, “By the end of this meeting, we (or you) will have…” Choose a verb that is achievable in the time frame allotted. For example, for a 45-minute, very first meeting, one outcome might be:“By the end of this meeting, we will have learned more about the problem and brainstormed possible solutions.”

    If your meeting is ninety minutes long, you could say instead: “By the end of this meeting, we will have:

    • learned more about the problem,
    • brainstormed possible solutions, and
    • made preliminary choices of the best solutions.”

    Can you sense the difference in time needed for these two very different sorts of meetings?

  3. Put the outcome statements at the top of the agenda.E-mail them to meeting members. Write them on the whiteboard and state them at the beginning of the meeting. Any way you can, make it very clear what “will have changed” as a result of the meeting.

Guess what? By using these guidelines to develop and use an achievable outcome statement, your meetings will become shorter, less painful, and more productive. I guarantee it!

Guila Muir is the premiere trainer of trainers, facilitators, and presenters on the West Coast of the United States. Since 1994, she has helped thousands of professionals improve their training, facilitation, and presentation skills. Find out how she can help you improve your meetings! http://www.guilamuir.com/courses/facilitation-skills-training/
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