Over the weekend a few of us from the cycling club took on one of the top 100 climbs, it struck me as I was half way up that not having prepared sufficiently for the climb meant that I was not in the best place to manage my energy which also resonates with me as a facilitator of meetings - here is why..
Having not prepared for the climb by reading up on it, knowing about the course of the mountain, where and how it would truly test and over what period of time I would need to manage my energy and commitment to the climb and where the respite might come, I was faced with a three hour event but with a blank sheet along with plenty of fears and trepidation interspersed with hope and knoweldge that at some point we would have cake!
Preparing for and participating in a meeting requires the same effort, preparation and insight into the journey through a meeting agenda. If participants arrive with clear knowledge of the objectives and have done their homework ahead of the meeting they will have clear expectations and know they can contribute. The task for the facilitator is to keep the focus on the objectives, manage the energy of the group by helping them to understand when and how they can contribute as the journey through the meeting progresses and when they get to the end, help the group to review their success, take a few pictures and celebrate their achievement.
If you are in meetings where the agenda has no clear objectives or timings assigned to each item, people cannot prepare adequately for their participation, if you start the meeting without clariying expectations then there is a chance the group will want to head off up different climbs as you are faced with many potential challenges to explore, if they have no insight into how you will support thinking and contributions as you head through the meeting they may try to get all their issues, points, ideas and challenges out within the first two items, exhausting themselves (and others chasing them) rather than being helped to manage themselves by understanding the aprroach you are taking.
If you want to win Facilitation King of the Mountains when it comes to your meetings then start with clear agendas, clear timed objectives, clear methods for participation and capture and you will have a great chance of going all the way to the top.