Photo Credit: Breakout activities such as this work flow board gave me and my partner time to brainstorm about project details in a productive way before sharing our ideas and learning with the larger group.

Meetings. Workshops. Conferences. We have all been to them; they are a routine part of working together. You know when you have been to a bad meeting, where the meetings outcomes weren’t clear, or the goals vague. You know that feeling of valuable time slipping through your fingers due to a poorly planned activity or ineffective facilitation. But, hopefully you have also been to those exciting meetings where work gets done, people learn, and the takeaways are practical.

There are a variety of ideas about how to structure a workshop, and a lot of times it depends on your goals, the number of participants and the type of resources you have access to.

We’ve blogged about meetings before. Specifically, we’ve shared (1) tips for creating an interactive agenda and (2) lessons learned from a community meeting in North Lake Tahoe.

For this post, I would also like to introduce some resources I have used when planning meetings and workshops. (Note: The FAC Learning Network does not endorse the use of these specifics products over others, they are just a few examples of resources we have used.)

Introduction to Planning And Facilitating Effective Meetings
This guidebook, developed by the NOAA Coastal Services Center, offers a great introduction to planning a meeting. It covers the role of a facilitator and facilitation techniques, and discusses theories of group interaction. Additionally, it provides a list of resources for facilitation and conflict management training!

Collaborative Learning Guide
Developed by Chris Feurt at Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, this guide and accompanying training focuses on collaborative learning. Collaborative learning can be used to bridge the gap between scientific research and the application of that research to inform policy and management. This guidebook talks about what collaborative learning is, what the process looks like, and walks through a community-based example about the value of water.

The Public Participation Handbook: Making Better Decisions Through Citizen Involvement
This book by James L. Creighton is a practical guide to designing and facilitating public participation in environmental and public policy decision making. This guide talks about different styles of meetings and how to plan them. The author presents facilitation ideas and styles, gives diagrams of room layouts, and provides lots of other wonderful ideas for making your meeting more styled to the outcomes you want. It also covers getting information to the public in different formats, and how to evaluate your meetings.

I have collected a lot of written resources over the years that I have found valuable, but I think that I have learned the most by watching and taking notes at those really great meetings, by keeping sketches of room layouts, and noting the activities facilitators used to collect ideas or work through a problem. If you’re a facilitator or meeting planner I urge you to keep a notebook of ideas and sketches and keep track of things you thought went well and didn’t go well. This practice has been beneficial for me as I strive to become a better facilitator and collaborative engagement practitioner.

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