Good Meetings Don’t Just Happen

Highlight Notes from a Presentation by Craig Freshley at the City of Gardiner Board, Commission, and Committee Volunteer Reception and Training on October 28, 2015


Good Meetings Don't Just Happen - Slide



You Know it’s a bad meeting when………

  • There are too many absences – not enough people attending
  • Only one opinion is aired
  • Chaos
  • Someone falls asleep
  • Technology doesn’t work
  • Not much discussion
  • Doesn’t stay on topic
  • No one is listening
  • Disrespectful
  • Talking over each other
  • “Tone”
  • Eye rolls
  • Cell phone distractions
  • People aren’t prepared
  • No food!

Key Ingredients for Good Meetings

  • Know why you are meeting
    • And that you need to have one!
      • If you have a problem to be solved or a question to be answered, make sure that having a meeting is the best way to solve your problem or answer your question
    • Write down the problem or question
  • Design the meeting to match the purpose
    • Right agenda
      • Reasons get together
        • Entertainment
        • Build community
        • Learn new things
        • Generate ideas
        • Make decisions
        • Get stuff done
      • The last three are reasons to “meet”
      • Think through each agenda item and what the purpose is
      • Think through the timing
    • Right people
      • Stakeholders are people who can help or hinder the decision
    • Right room
      • Seating arrangements matter
  • Professional process
    • Separate substance from process
    • Clarify how the decision will be made
    • Clarify ground rules
    • These three things “level the playing field”
  • Good attitudes
    • Helpful
      • Open minded
      • Fully present
    • Not helpful
      • I know what’s best
      • No good will come of this
        • Or, no good can come from “that person”
  • Write stuff down
    • In the meeting
      • Use easels and screens
      • Invest in getting the words right on the spot
    • After the meeting
      • Notes or approved minutes
  • Align actions with intentions
    • Policy with practice
      • If they drift apart – change the policy of change the practice
    • Do what you said you would do
    • The story of the Three frogs

Most Useful Tips

  • One-on-One
    • Conversations before the meeting are really helpful
  • No One Dominates
  • Multiple Truths
    • Don’t spend time trying to figure out “the real truth,” just accept and move forward in light of multiple truths
  • Right-size decision making
    • The wrong sized process is a huge source of inefficiency
  • Facilitation
    • Having a facilitator allows everyone else to focus on substance
  • E-mail
    • Be very deliberate about how you use it
  • Credit the group
    • Give ideas to the group without concern for credit of blame
  • Problems as misalignments
    • Characterize problems without judgment and they solve easier
  • Open mind


My hope for you is that you lead from wherever you are, practice these principles, and have good meetings and make good decisions for the City of Gardiner!

Thanks for inviting me to work with you.

– Craig