Facilitating Meetings Is Like Herding Cats

Sometimes our meetings may feel like herding cats.

Remember a meeting is two or more people getting together with a desired purpose or outcome.

The other day, I struck up a win-win bartering agreement with a friend of mine. I agreed to teach him what I knew about Twitter and building a Twitter following in exchange for solving a challenge around my website at http://www.Jackofalltraining.com. Two other friends overheard the conversation and decided that they would also like the information. Everyone agreed on the time and location at a local restaurant.

Three of us arrived on time and one person had not arrived yet. We tried texting and calling the fourth party and we decided to wait a few minutes to see if our fourth friend was coming. After waiting around 20 minutes, we began our discussion and ordered food. The fourth friend arrived, was playfully scolded by the other 3 and replied that he had never made the commitment to arrive on time. As is sometimes the case, especially with men, we are frequently unsure what part of communication is real or just playfully busting chops between male testosteronies. I rarely know!

Little did we know, but we had different expectations regarding.

1. Whether it was a come at your leisure meeting or a “punctuality matters” meeting.

2. Whether we would conduct discussions during eating….or wait till afterwards. Once again, different preferences existed.

3. Whether we would be playful…and interrupt with tidbits of humor or be strictly business focused.

As most meetings go, we just began our discussions. Nobody discussed their expectations…we just began this free-for-all.

I’m going to attempt to recreate some real dialog from this meeting to give you an idea. “So if I decide to tweet about some belly button lint that i found today….how would I do it”.

What was the real message……was it….”I don’t really see the value of twitter?” or “I thought I saw the value of twitter, but now I don’t or “I came here to be a clown and have a fun time”. I felt puzzled, If he didn’t see the value, why was he at this meeting. This meeting was in fact voluntary. I ignored the comment, smiled, and assumed that it was just playful male communication.

As is normally the case, nobody inquired to the real meaning……why….cause we just meet! Perhaps some inquiry was called for…..such as: “When you are commenting about tweeting about belly button lint, are you saying that twitter is not useful to me? or just having fun?”

I would suggest that when you start a meeting

1. Articulate your desired result.

2. Listen to others desired results.

As you conduct the meeting.

1. Inquire into puzzling messages to discover the real message.

2. Make the undiscussable discussable in a way that preserves the relationship

3. Add value at every interaction.

4. Practice good facilitation skills to maximize the results you’re after.

And finally, if you’re my friend…..realize that someday you may become a blog post.