In this article I am going to provide 12 scenarios and 12 powerful questions that can be used during role-play exercises or training on efficient and effective meetings.
For each of these scenarios, the trainer or facilitator will pose questions to the attendees to gather insights on their possible reactions, ideas, thoughts, solutions. The coach should adapt the questions to different classes according to their maturity or level of dysfunction. Sometimes deep diving is needed. Some other times positive responses will need to be provoked or inspired. Other scenarios may serve as simple icebreakers or health checks. What matters is to have a guided conversation on the topic.
Let it happen and let participant connect, reflect, understand.
This activity usually boost productivity in the months after.
After each scenario, come up with powerful questions such as:
– What would you do if you were the attendee?
– What should Bob have done?
– How should Alice react to this?
– What would be the best way for the time keeper to contribute to meeting success?
– Would you consider scenario X a successful meeting?
– What alternative action could have been taken to have a better outcome and healthier relation?
And so forth… (more example questions at the end of the article)
Below are the scenarios.
Alice receives an empty invitation to a meeting from Bob. No agenda, no goal, no attachments, no context. The email subject is “meeting”.
The meeting starts and after introducing the agenda to the attendees, Alice moves forward illustrating the first point. It’s a virtual meeting with more than 3 attendees.
Charlie joins 8 minutes into the meeting. Charlie doesn’t want to be rude so as soon as he joins, he unmutes and apologises for his delay. He explains that it is not his fault and at least he has a good excuse for it. He has been in meetings all day, one after another, without even time to drink a glass of water. His days are very busy and the latest call was with a very important customer. The call went overtime but the clients are very interested so it is good news and it is worth being late.
Everyone else is now on mute and after a few seconds of silence, Charlie asks… “so what is this meeting about”?
Virtual or in person meeting. While waiting for other attendees, Bob starts talking about his last holiday. He goes through his mishaps and lists all the small details that went wrong. He criticises the hosting country habits and his flow of thoughts appears quite negative. In the meantime, few others join and more than 5 minutes has gone from expected start.
Alice gave some cues coughing and blatantly looking at her watch but Bob doesn’t seem to be receiving (or to be receptive to) Alice’s messages.
Erin, who is better than Bob at reading the room, clears her voice and starts reading the agenda and kicks off the meeting. Bob speaks very loud and he is still trapped in his passionate train of thoughts and tales so he doesn’t realise the meeting has started.
The 30-minute meeting is already 9 minutes behind the schedule.
Bob is working on a task with his team that will require a 20$/month budget approval from Grace and Victor.Bob’s manager, Walter, has some questions about it, but rather than sending them by email, he asks Bob to organise a meeting. Bob summoned Alice, Frank, Ted, Grace, Victor, Mallroy, Oscar, Chuck, Trudy, Walter, Wendy, Sybil, Judy to the meeting. Despite being the one that has asked to organise it and accepting the invitation, Walter is not present in the meeting. 10 minutes into the meeting, no one knows where Walter is. Any attempt to contact him is unsuccessful.
Scenario 5 (Continues from Scenario 4)
Everyone finally joins the meeting. Grace and Victor approved the budget for Bob’s work but Walter is reluctant to let Bob & his team proceed.
Walter shares his doubts and questions all the benefits of the solution. Without proposing any alternative he advocates the status quo. Nothing should change in his opinion.
Bob, Alice, Frank keep explaining the need for change and the benefits. The meeting gets repetitive, it doesn’t go anywhere.
It is also 12 minutes overdue.
Scenario 6 (Continues from Scenario 5)
Grace and Victor reiterate their approval. A decision has been made.
They have now left the meeting in order to attend another important call. Trudy, who has been silent all time during the meeting, comes up now with new objections to support Walter’s argument.
Judy says that the meeting is overdue and that a clear decision has been taken. The meeting can end.
Scenario 7 (Continues from Scenario 6)
But the meeting doesn’t end yet. Chuck, like Trudy and Walter, is not directly involved in the task as well. He peer-pressures the ones that are still in the meeting to ignore the approvers’ decision.
Some participants are confused and frustrated. The meeting ends.
Chuck starts a chat/email thread asserting old and new arguments in favour of the status quo, advocating the necessity of revert approval and re-discuss the matter next week in a new meeting.
Judy organises a meeting on behalf of Peggy for next week. Judy is not among the essential attendees. The day of the meeting Peggy needs to reschedule the meeting but Judy is on sick leave, so Peggy cannot materially reschedule or cancel invitations sent by Judy.
In a meeting with more than 10 attendees some of which earns a very high hourly rate, Sybil and Trudy argue for the entire duration of the meeting. The debate is very hot, ugly, and impolite. Not a nice show for all other silent attendees who witness this toxic language and aggressive behaviour.
Ted tries to bring the debate to a more productive and positive standard. Sybil abandon the meeting. Trudy start insulting Ted.
The meeting, originally scheduled for 30 mins, is now going on for an hour.
Rupert organises a meeting in order to decide something urgent that needs to be solved by the end of the week. The meeting is scheduled for Friday at 10 AM. Friday at 9.45 AM Rupert reschedules the meeting to Monday saying that the due date has been postponed. Monday, 15 minutes before the meeting, Rupert reschedules again for next Friday at the same time. He says that the matter is still a priority but not so urgent.
Scenario 11 (Continues from Scenario 10)
Rupert keeps repeating this pattern for 12 weeks. On a Friday that he is on leave, he doesn’t reschedule the meeting.
Scenario 12 (Continues from Scenario 11)
None of the invitees really knows what the meeting is about and they have never asked. Rupert leaves the company.
Everyone asks Olivia when a decision will be made in regards to the urgent matter Rupert was working on.
Disclaimer and Conclusions
Apart from scenario n.1, all of the above scenarios are products of pure imagination and the result of a creative, copyrighted, writing exercise of office-fiction play writing. They can be used during training and workshops to challenge participants with powerful questions such as:
– What do you think is going well in this scenario?
– What do you think doesn’t sound right in this scenario?
– What would you do if you were that particular character?
– If you were in that meeting, what would you try to make the meeting effective?
– How much this meeting or activity is going to cost the company?
– Which questions from the Effective and Efficient Meetings Checklist would help in this situation?
What other powerful questions come to your mind as a trainer / facilitator for this exercise? Comment to let me know.
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I write about organizational patterns, transformational leadership, healthy businesses, high-performing teams, future of workplace, culture, mindset, biases and more. My focus is in leading, training, and coaching teams and organizations in improving their agile adoption. Articles are the result of my ideas, studies, reading, research, courses, and learning. The postings on this site and any social profile are my own and do not represent or relate to the postings, strategies, opinions, events, situations of any current or former employer.
This article has been published for the first time on danieledavi.com by the author Daniele Davi’.
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