Group Exercise_Best Practices for Meetings

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I developed this exercise for a technical writing class. It helped students work together and was an excellent introduction to best practices for meetings.

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Group Exercise_Best Practices for Meetings

  1. 1. Group Exercise: Best Practices For Meetings Introduction The purpose of this forty-five minute exercise is learning how to work together. The outcome is best practices for meetings, the most common “shared context” (Friend Wise et al, p. 318) for corporate collaboration. Good meetings build cooperation through communication. They encourage problem solving and innovation. Yet, the prospect of another meeting fills many of us with dread. In many companies, the participatory management style (Lamb, p. 22) has replaced the top-down approach. Decision-making involves experts and non-experts, a chance to participate that the technical communicator should welcome. As the documentation nexus, the technical communicator knows how to work together. For example, to win the cooperation of a subject matter expert, you prepare well. This overcomes doubt about your qualifications and secures the information. In addition, the freelancer who collaborates well fosters relationships, which leads to more work. Overview To begin the exercise, your group chooses a facilitator, note taker, and timekeeper. Next, review the list of meeting criticisms. Considering your review of meeting criticisms: • Draft a list of best practices for how to run a meeting. • Design a presentation. • Present your best practices. Conclusion As you work together, consider which personal practices you can improve. Page 1 of 6
  2. 2. Group Exercise: Best Practices For Meetings Choose Facilitator, Note Taker, and Timekeeper (5 minutes) 1. Choose the facilitator. Ask someone who does not usually lead. The hands-on facilitator focuses participants on purposes and goals. They work the problem, refine language, and resolve conflict. Finally, the facilitator structures action items, leading the group toward decision-making. 2. Choose the note taker. Most meetings require notes, if not minutes, which become part of the corporate record. Good notes remind people of their action items and deadlines. 3. Choose the timekeeper. To stay on schedule, the meeting needs a (fearless) timekeeper. Review Meeting Characteristics (5 minutes) How many features of a “bad” meeting do you recognize (George Mason University)? • agenda – too ambitious • mixed motives • apathy • non-participants • arguing • one person does all the work • betraying trust • people not listening • boring presentations • procrastination • cliques • randomly-changing topic • close-mindedness • repetition • complaining • tunnel-vision • cross-talk • unwillingness to compromise • disorganization • disrespect • impatience Some meeting participants may feel • lack of transparency that socializing and business do not • leaders – none mix, but does some socializing foster • leaders – too many group coherence (Markel, p. 73)? • meeting too long Page 2 of 6
  3. 3. Group Exercise: Best Practices For Meetings Draft Recommendations for Best Practices (20 minutes) Working together, draft best practices for a meeting. State the goal and explain how to implement the practice. The Work Sheet (p.6) may be useful. Too many rules stifle debate. Don’t overdo it! Examples of Best Practices Meeting participants often vote to make decisions, but how? By majority, plurality, or consensus? Or by limited consensus, where you agree not to block the decision you may not like. Along with how to vote, consider the issues in Table 1. Action Items “Participants agreed on next steps, but Delegated action items keep didn’t delegate responsibility!” everyone focused. Agenda State the purposes and goals and A topic may require more time, assign time to each agenda item. which the facilitator negotiates. Help participants prepare: distribute agendas beforehand. Find an agenda template on-line: • http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/CT101172311033.aspx. Brainstorm Break the ice. Generate ideas together. Evaluate ideas at the end. This Display each idea. shows respect to each contributor. Check-In A brief opportunity to update the Start with a check-in. meeting on your work, etc. Check-in midway about process or to see if consensus is emerging. The facilitator should check-in at the end to confirm action items and deadlines and ask how the meeting went (process, content, etc.). Deadlines Assign deadlines for tasks, projects, The note taker records deadlines. and progress reports. ext Meeting The group agrees on when and where The note taker records these to meet next. details, as does each participant. Table 1 Issues to consider for best practices. Is the practice flexible? Consider ethno-cultural values and corporate culture. Also, consider the context, from a meeting of staff to investors. Page 3 of 6
  4. 4. Group Exercise: Best Practices For Meetings Design Your Presentation (5 minutes) 1. Polish the best practices: • State the goal. • Explain how to implement the practice. • Use plain language. The common sense best practice secures buy-in more easily than the arbitrary rule. 2. Decide how to present the recommendations. 3. Delegate a group member to answer questions. Present Best Practices (10 minutes) Buy-In Your presentation is like the workplace pitch you make for the best practice. Persuade the manager to use the best practice. Present the practice to the staff for buy-in. Congratulations! With these best practices, you will succeed in the most common form of collaboration, the meeting. Page 4 of 6
  5. 5. Group Exercise: Best Practices For Meetings References Agendaes – Templates – Microsoft Online. http://office.microsoft.com/en- us/templates/CT101172311033.aspx (accessed 12 November 2009) Friend Wise, Alyssa, Padmanabhan, Poornima and Duff, Thomas M. Connecting online learners with diverse local practices: the design of effective common reference points for conversation. Distance Education, Vol. 30, No. 3 (November 2009), pp. 317-338. George Mason University, New Century College. Some Basic Tools for Group Process and Decision-Making. NCLC 110 (Fall 1997), pp. 1-6. http://classweb.gmu.edu/mgabel/nclc110_1997/groupcol.htm (accessed 23 October 2009). Lamb, Sandra E. How to Write It: Business Plans and Reports. Business & Economic Review, (October-December 2006), pp. 17-24. Markel, Mike. 2010. Technical Communication. 9th Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins. Moote, Ann (Ecological Restoration Institute) and McCarthy, Laura (Forest Guild), November 2005. Real World Case Study Exercise (#200). National Partnership/Collaboration Training Modules (January 2007). http://www.partnershipresourcecenter.org/resources/training/collaborative-training/200- real-world-case-study-exercise.pdf (accessed 12 November 2009). Spring, Michael. Collaborative Writing. (31 January 1997). http://www.sis.pitt.edu/~spring/cas/node31.html (accessed 22 October 2009). Page 5 of 6
  6. 6. Group Exercise: Best Practices For Meetings Work Sheet for Best Practices Goal Implementation Page 6 of 6

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