Plan more successful meetings- Ask this key question

The key question you need to ask first to get more successful meetings.’s the first key question that you ask yourself when you’re about to organise a meeting?

Is it about the time? The venue? Or even the people who should be invited?

These are all important questions, but there is one question that I ask all my clients before we start working out these details.

How do you describe success?

That’s it. It might appear very simple and even a tad obvious. But this one question unlocks a lot of information that might have previously gone unstated and unnoticed.

First, I ask the client how they would define success for the organisation (perhaps with the plan’s timeframe in mind). And you can get some pretty interesting responses. In one case, this question was even met with surprise. No one had ever asked the chairperson that question before. I watched as his mind slowly ticked over the question until I could see him mulling over all the answers that came to mind. “Boy, that’s a good question. We should ask that in the planning session.”

So why is this question so good? It’s a great question because it opens opens up the opportunity for people to dream a little, to imagine wonderful possibilities, and step out of their current reality. But it also provides some hooks and clues about what to do next. (We want to make this success real, of course.) So if success means a major revamp of your business, then what type of planning process do you need? A one or two hour meeting might be fine to keep the wheels turning for business as usual. But a major revamp needs some serious thinking, at least a day with some check in points scheduled in over time.

And then to create that success, what type of information do you need to bring to your planning meeting? What risks and opportunities do you need to be aware of? And who are the right people that need to be in that room to help solidify that picture of success?

What I love most about this question is that the answer changes depending on who’s responding and their perspective. How the CEO or chairperson defines success may be very different to how the exec team or even the staff see it? And what about your customers, clients, and other stakeholders? How would they define success for you from their perspective?

Once you get a handle on the wider context, you can take a more detailed perspective. What do you need to do in relation to the meeting in order to describe it as successful? What outcomes are you seeking? Agreement, acknowledgement, or understanding? What do you need to cover in the agenda? What questions or activities would create the most successful meeting? And so on.

In the end, the facilitator brings together all of those expectations around success and crafts the best meeting process to move towards that result. It’s not always easy. Sometimes expectations need to be managed by setting some boundaries and limits. And there also needs to be a degree of flexibility, because the meeting might not generate the exact plan the client imagined (it might even end up being better). But it makes the whole process easier when you know what you want to work towards.

All of this thinking and discussion was initiated by asking one question: How do you describe success? In the end, it’s not just a simple question after all.

How do you define success for yourself or your organisation? And how can you plan to bring it about?

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