Importance of Pre-offsite Meeting Consultations – # 5 Short Meetings

August 4, 2015

CEO’s of organizations regularly hold offsite planning meetings with their executive team and/or with the Board of Directors. Likewise, Department Heads sometimes brings their team together especially if they are geographically dispersed.

Often, these sessions are held on an annual basis, and the topics can be varied such as strategic planning, annual plans or to address operational issues.

I have found that holding pre-offsite meeting consultations with attendees, and sometimes with non-attendees, can dramatically improve the outcomes of the sessions. I have compiled a listing of 8 reasons why the consultations are so effective and each Monday over the summer I will provide the detailed explanation for one of the reasons. It will be a quick 2 minute read each week. Previous weeks’ blogs will remain on the website.

Reason #1 Effectiveness – Maximizes the value of the time spent at the offsite meeting (July 7)

Reason #2 Agenda – Provides key insights that assist with setting the meeting agenda (July 13)

Reason #3 Non Attendees – Enables non-attendees to contribute effectively and to have their voice heard (July 20)

Reason #4 Confidentiality – The value of “in confidence” consultations (July 28)

Reason #5 Short Meetings –Provides ability to have very effective short meetings

Undertaking the pre-meeting consultations creates the ability to have very effective short meetings that otherwise would have been much longer. The following two examples cover meetings that were 1.5 hours in duration that typically would have taken most of a full day. Each consultation took about half an hour. So each meeting participant spent 2 hours of their valuable time on critically important issues rather than a full 7 hour day.

A university president wanted to have a “blue sky session” with the Board of Governors at an off-site location. However, only an hour and a half was available for this topic. Leading up to the offsite one on one consultations were held with most of the meeting attendees and the “What We Heard” presentation covered the broad spectrum of what they individually thought were important issues facing the university over the next few years. At the start of a short presentation, I stated that what you will see is the same as if we had spent the whole day together covering the walls up with flipchart paper. I went over all of the issues but was able to zero in on the collective views of what was really important. In the short time available we not only came to agreement on the goals and objectives for the next 5 years but also were able to outline the strategies required to achieve the desired results.

The CEO of a fledgling, complex organization with stakeholders representing both a wide geographic area as well as a variety of types of organizations wanted to have a session to get agreement on a Vision Statement and a Mission Statement starting from scratch! The meeting would have some 25 people in the room and another 5 on the phone. In this case, generic vision and mission templates were sent out in advance of the consultations to assist with information gathering. The “What We Heard” presentation covered the wide range of thoughts and views as well as three draft representative Vision and Mission Statements. By focusing on the draft statements we were able not only to collectively create final statements but also to garner formal approval thereof, as well. We went 10 minutes over but job done!

These are two great examples of how to efficiently and effectively accomplish full day tasks in a fraction of the time that would normally be spent by conducting pre-session one-on-one consultations.

Reason #6 Focus Shift – Sometimes results in a major shift in focus (August 10)

Reason #7 Key Question – The value of one open ended question (August 17)

Reason #8 Facilitator Participation – Creates ability for facilitator to contribute (August 24)

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