Submitted by CalKen on
I facilitated a six-hour "blitz" meeting with customer and company management (which was a bit intimidating to say the least). The whole night before the meeting I studied the MT effective meeting series and listened to the podcasts twice each. Although the podcasts dealt with meeting that had only a 1.5 hour duration (recommended) I used the same meeting tips as was mentioned in the podcasts so I wanted to share my experiences in the hopes that this may help with people doing day-long blitzes.
1) Parking Lot: I found this very useful, and although I did not schedule time to address parking lot issues I found that at the end we had enough free time that we were able to discuss all of the parking lot issues.
2) Breaks: I did not schedule breaks, as I realized after I sent the slides. All that I did was state that the last 5 minutes of each agenda item is left for break time.
3) Duration of agenda items: I gave each agenda item an hour, and included enough sub-topics so that each one got no less than 10 minutes each. I found that I could have used more for some (especially ones where people disagreed) so I would have either condensed the sub-topics to only have 3-4 per hour or gotten more feedback from the presenters as to how much discussion they expect.
4) Crowd control: I found that it was fairly easy to keep people in control at the beginning but as the day wound down I found people more agitated (I felt bad because I had to actually raise my voice to two upper managers who began taking over and arguing amongst themselves, although I placed their argument on the parking lot for further review). As a recommendation I would probably schedule to more "challenging" topics earlier in the day and then the ones with more consensus and less conflict towards the end (although I had a fear of running out of time and not discussing the most important items).
Overall, the things I took away was that the basic rules of large day-long meetings are generally the same as those that MT discussed although I would say that the agenda and breaks, as well as crowd control to keep everyone on-topic later in the day was a definite change from the smaller meetings (side bars erupted more in this meeting than in other meetings requiring me to raise my voice frequently). The use of a facilitator and a leader was crucial as I ran the meeting and captured action items (I guess I was the leader in this case) while the other individual kept us on track with slides and agenda items. If it were not for the extra assistance I know that I would not have finished on time or gotten the important items completed. I will definitely have assistance in other meetings in the future, as the MT method recommends.
The feedback I got was very positive. One of the upper managers (The one I raised my voice at) stated that it was "the most productive meeting he had in a very long time" and has asked me to facilitate future meetings between us and the customer. Another was very impressed by the use of the parking lot and agenda items and was thrilled that I was able to finish 0.5 hours ahead of schedule. The customer gave me very high marks and asked me to facilitate in the future (I was told later that previous meetings broke out into squabblings and side bars due to lack of control). I felt very honored by the feedback but also felt humbled because I feel that I could have done far better as I have much improvement. Thanks to MT though I had a very successful meeting, and look forward to improving future ones.