I attend many meetings and have found that much time is spent floundering because the presenter (or facilitator) does not effectively frame the desired outcome of the agenda items. 

If a proposal is presented and the floor is opened to “any questions?”, it is the tendency of participants to start asking about details and operational aspects of things. It is easier. It is where they have expertise. But it is not strategic. If the purpose of the presentation is to consider something in a longer-term context, then the discussion needs to begin with “what are the strategic implications of this proposal?” or “how does this fit with our strategy priorities?” or something that sets up the first question to keep the conversation at the desired level.

One of my favorite questions is: “what is the purpose of this?” — asking whether the presentation is meant for information, action or commentary. Knowing why this presentation is being made at the meeting and what the desired outcome is can go a long way in moving the discussion forward in a productive manner. 

Ideally these framing questions are included in the proposal itself or on the agenda, but it is not always the case. If you find yourself at a meeting where others are sharing material, seek clarity as soon as you are able as to what the presenter hopes to achieve at this meeting. You can save yourself a lot of time spent discussing details and be more effective as you consider larger implications if that is the desired result.

beth triplett

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