Highlights from our August B Learning Event


August B Learning Lunch with B Local PDX

August 22nd, 2019 at Ecotrust

Creating Effective Meetings for Better Results with Suzanne Coffman

Download the Presentation (PDF)

We gathered at Ecotrust’s Billy Frank room for the August B Learning Lunch to learn how to run effective meetings. At the previous lunch in July, Suzanne Coffman, Senior Business Advisor & Insight Activator at Trebuchet Group shared the different types of conflict and how to harness it for better results. Healthy conflict should be present at effective meetings.

75% of people who regularly facilitate meetings have had no formal training on how to run a successful meeting. At this B Learning Event, Suzanne led us through a few areas that can help make our meetings better. We started by exploring how the set up of the meeting is important and considering space is a great start to planning. Meetings can be unproductive and energy draining. Here are some of the things that can make meeting a negative experience:

  • Unproductive conversations

  • Off topic discussion

  • Not enough time

  • No agenda or objectives

  • Interruptions

  • Unpreparedness

  • Not everyone has an equal voice

  • It can be more work to make things up after the meeting

What options do we have to fix these issues? Having fewer meetings or canceling all of them isn’t a good solution. Find a sweet spot- make smaller adjustments, get feedback, then continue making small adjustments until you find what’s right for you and your team. There are many things you can do to improve your meetings, and we focused on four key areas:
Outcome-based thinking and design

  • Meeting rituals

  • Healthy conflict

  • Getting commitment

Start by questioning the purpose of a meeting: ”What will we walk out with?” and “why are we having this meeting?” Here are some examples of products to aim for: lists, plans, decisions, and agreements. Other goals can be knowledge, awareness or understanding so that a product can be reached.

Rituals can be great for meetings. You can start by having a check, for example, one thing making you anxious and one thing making you excited. Other options are an energy scale (pick a number between 1-10) or what kind of day you’ve had so far. Being open about your current reality and providing a little context can get everyone on the same page before diving into the agenda. Have space for celebrations, shoutouts, challenges, and announcements or have fun get-to-know-you questions like icebreakers. A great option for a longer meeting or strategic planning day is to have everyone write down their intention for how they will show up to the meeting and then check-in at the end to see if individuals were able to meet those intentions.

You can create ground rules or meeting guidelines to clarify expectations. Think about what behaviors could get in the way of having a successful meeting and help you reach your objective. If you set them, make sure to follow them and hold each other accountable- honor the group’s commitment to the ground rules! Ground rules can include items that may seem obvious: be on time, respect, and give everyone an equal voice. You can also include rules like no devices or keep to the schedule.

Think about a good meeting you’ve attended recently, what aspects made it good? Here a few from the small group discussions:

  • Agenda was prepared, clear objectives

  • Clear structure and follow up

  • Visual aids

  • Engagement, passion, commitment, and energy level (time of day)

  • Working meetings

When many of us think of conflict at work we think of personal attacks or on the flipside false harmony-it doesn’t have to be these things! Healthy conflict is a wonderful thing to have at work and in meetings and leads to productive teams. It’s important to understand the types of conflict and where you typically land on the scale: Compete, collaborate, comprise, avoid, and accommodate. Thomas Kilmann Instrument is an assessment you can take to see which of the five conflict modes you are using often or maybe not enough. It can be a positive exercise to take this assessment and share results with each other. Be aware of conflict, don’t ignore it.

Thomas Kilmann Conflict Modes (TKI) Graph

Thomas Kilmann Conflict Modes (TKI) Graph

The final focus area is getting commitment. You don’t need people to agree or reach consensus, but you do need buy-in. Be ready to check for commitment by using thumbs up (onboard and agree), sideways thumb (I don’t agree but will support it), and thumbs down (do not support). Not everyone has to love every decision.


There is a lot to learn when it comes to having effective meetings. Remember to avoid extreme changes and move slowly when making adjustments to your meeting structure and flow. See this handout to think through meetings at your organization and access a pdf of the presentation here: Creating Effective Meetings for Better Results.

Thank you for joining us! You can reach Suzanne at Suzanne@trebuchetgroup.com if you have questions or need support.