Framing a Meeting Right

Finish bannerEver facilitated a meeting that just seems to keep going off the rails? A framing statement is key to starting a meeting strong, and a good framing statement addresses four things:

1. Why We’re Here & What We’re Trying to Achieve Together

Briefly explain why you’re meeting together and what you’re hoping to accomplish. For example, for a sprint retrospective, the facilitator might say, “Welcome, everyone. This is a chance for us to step away from the work to reflect on how we can experience greater impact and ease in our work. Over the next hour, we’re going to look back at the previous sprint and try to design an experiment for something that can be better in the next sprint.”

2. How We’re Going To Do It

Share just enough about the agenda that people feel comfortable you have a plan. “First we’ll collect some data about what happened. We’ll look at what was frustrating and what was energizing for us in the last sprint. Then, we’ll try to make sense of that data together to see what it tells us about our process. Finally, we’ll work together to design an experiment for the next sprint to make something better in how we work.”

3. Who’s Going To Do What

Make it clear how you expect participants to contribute to that shared purpose. For example, “While we worked together as a team, each of us had slightly different experiences and saw different things. I’m hoping we can bring all of what we know to the table and combine those perspectives to really understand what’s going on.”

Note: Some meetings have different roles for different participants. This is the place where you’d make it clear how different participants can contribute in different ways. For example, you might occasionally invite an outside stakeholder to a retrospective focused on your team’s collaboration with an outside group. You may want to call out how you’re hoping they’ll contribute in ways that may be different from other team members.

4. Address Potential Concerns

When you know participants are bringing their own concerns and goals into the discussion, the opening is a place to acknowledge this and to reassure people they’ll be addressed (or explain why they’re out of scope).

As you draft your framing statement, consider the motivation factors: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Try to highlight details that would increase the participants’ sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This will increase their engagement in the meeting.

Set the Tone

At the start of your meeting, communicate your framing statement in a way that sets the tone for the whole meeting. This almost always means bringing more enthusiasm and energy than feels natural—the facilitator sets the ceiling for the energy in a meeting. Of course, that energy should fit the tone and content of the meeting. You should frame a celebration different from a meeting to wrestle with difficult news.

When you invite people to a meeting, it’s good meeting etiquette to share the purpose of the meeting in advance so people can come prepared. Consider sharing an abbreviated version of your framing statement as part of the meeting invite.

Our favorite way to get the right details in this pre-meeting version is to run a thought experiment: Imagine the meeting was optional, and everyone you wanted to attend showed up enthusiastic and ready to contribute. What did you need to communicate in advance to create that outcome?

Try this with your next meeting and see how a clear frame in the first few minutes of a meeting makes everything else flow more smoothly.

Learn More

Want to learn more about how to facilitate effective meetings? Join us this fall for a half day workshop on the most important facilitation skills and how to apply them to your meetings:

The Art of Great Facilitation: Techniques for Leading Engaging and Productive Meetings
Oct 24, 2023, from 1:00PM – 5:00PM MDT (Denver)

Register Now

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