meeting preparationWhat does it take to be prepared for a facilitated session?  Whether you are preparing for running a task force, delivering a presentation, or meeting with a customer, the secret to preparation is the same:  you must achieve a clear understanding of the “six Ps.”

  1. Why are we holding this session? (Purpose)
  2. What do we want to have when we are done? (Product)
  3. Who will be attending the session? (Participants)
  4. What are the potential problems or issues that may surface? (Probable Issues)
  5. How will we go about achieving the purpose and product? (Process)
  6. Where will the session be held, or what virtual meeting platform will be utilized? (Place)

Of course, there are numerous other steps in the preparation process.  However, it is important to be aware of these most important steps. We recommend focusing on these
elements to gain a clear understanding of what is to be done and how.  In fact, it is important to decide the six Ps in order: purpose, product, participants, probable issues, process, and place.


Let’s take as an example a task force that has been brought together to address problems with the hiring process.  Here are answers to three of the six Ps.


Purpose: Define the changes necessary to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the hiring process Product: New Process Design, Cost/Benefit Analysis, Implementation Plan
1. Hold scoping meeting to initiate the project
2. Hold facilitated sessions to document how the process works today
3. Gather transaction counts and cost data
4. Hold facilitated sessions to document problems, root causes and potential solutions
5. Perform cost/benefit analyses on top alternatives
6. Develop and document how the process will work in the future
7. Develop implementation plan with resource estimates and costs
8. Present report of recommendations
9. Review and assess performance

Define the Meeting Products

The products are the specific items to be produced during the meeting that will define achievement of the purpose. Your desired products from the meeting may cover one or more of what I call the three Hs. You will want to identify what you want people to have in their:

  • Hands (deliverables)
  • Heads (knowledge)
  • Hearts (beliefs)

To identify the products you want to result from the meeting, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What specific tangible products or outcomes do I want to have produced when the meeting is over?
  • What do I want the participants to have in their hands, know in their heads, and believe in their hearts?
  • Three months following the meeting, how will I know the meeting was successful?

Sample Products

  • An action list indicating the steps to be taken, by whom, and when
  • A mission statement, guiding principles, broad goals, measurable targets, and specific strategies for achieving those targets
  • An understanding of the steps being taken to address outstanding issues
  • Approval to move forward and high expectations of success

The Sponsor Interview

If you are leading a task force or facilitating a meeting for someone else, it is important to have the six Ps answered by the sponsor.  A sample list of questions for the sponsor is shown in the table.  Not all questions are appropriate for every session.  In fact for some session types, several of the questions are somewhat redundant.  Select those questions most relevant to the effort you are facilitating.

Purpose 1.    Why are you having this session?  What is the purpose?
  2.    What is telling you that this session is needed? What are the problems you are trying to solve?
3.    How do you know there is a problem?  What are the symptoms?
4.    What are the implications of not solving this problem?
Product 5.    What is it that you are hoping to achieve from this session? What specific product or deliverable should be created?
6.    How will you know you have been successful?
7.    If you achieve this kind of success, what would be the benefit to your organization?
Participants 8.    Who will be attending the session? What are their perspectives or concerns?
9.    Will the attendees know each other?  Are there people who are on unfavorable terms?  Are introductions needed?
10. Are there participants who are not in favor of holding the session, or who stand to lose something if the session is successful or whose issues or ways of communication I should know about?
Probable Issues 11. What are the potential problems or issues that may surface?
12. What challenges do you anticipate in addressing these issues?
13. Are there specific topics you feel should not be discussed in the session?
14. How should I go about gaining an orientation on the session topics and the issues?
Process 15. What are some of the steps that you feel we should consider taking during the session?
16. What types of facilitated activities has this group undertaken in the past?  What were the results?
17. What steps have you taken already to address the purpose and product?
Place 18. Where will the session be held?
19. What are the logistics?
20. If virtual, what technology will be used, and how will it be used to conduct the session?

Want to learn other methods to prepare for your meetings? Get trained in these two facilitation courses – The Effective Facilitator is for you and your team if you lead complex, large-group sessions that require in-depth facilitation training and practice. Facilitating Masterful Meetings is for you and your team if you regularly lead standard group meetings that require fundamental skills building.

Contact us if you have questions!