Hesperian Health Guides

Appendix B: Good Meetings, from Start to Finish

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HealthWiki > Health Actions for Women > Appendix B: Good Meetings, from Start to Finish

a group of men and women arranging slips of paper on a wall under the headings Problems, Causes, and Solutions.

Planning a meeting

A well-planned training or meeting runs smoothly while encouraging everyone to participate. Meetings that are confusing, without goals, too long, or dominated by one person can make people feel discouraged and unwilling to return. But a well-planned meeting is energizing, participatory, and inspiring.

Steps to plan a meeting or training include:

  • Invite people to the meeting who will be affected by the decisions to be made.
  • Plan for providing child care and, if needed, food and drinks for participants.
  • Build an agenda based on topics people want to discuss.
  • Use activities to make the group comfortable and excited about working together.
  • Think about what problems might come up and rehearse how to handle them.
a woman speaking in a group while looking at a poster called "What makes a good meeting?" Items listed include "fun activities and breaks" and "decision making is fair."
It helps to have several kinds of activities because everyone learns differently.

Build an agenda

Building an agenda (a plan for the meeting) in advance will help the meeting run smoothly. Before the meeting, ask people who will attend what topics they would like to discuss in the meeting and try to include them in the agenda. Decide what time the meeting will start and end. Plan the meeting to stick to those times to be considerate of the participants.

For each agenda item, have a desired decision or outcome — what will people learn from each agenda item, and how will it move the group’s purpose forward? Then, determine how much time will be spent on each item. A good agenda allows time for people to reflect on and build from their own life experiences while they learn new information.

Agenda items can be organized to help avoid group exhaustion. If you start with small agenda items and announcements, or topics that can easily be decided, the group will feel accomplished from the start! Save the big conversations for later, but not so late that people will be tired. Create opportunities for people to share their ideas in smaller and large groups, to move their bodies, and to be creative. Plan for short breaks and activities to energize the group every hour or so.

Writing down a plan for the meeting, including goals, notes, and what materials are needed, can help you visualize the flow of the meeting. It will also help you remember the plan during the meeting!

illustration of the above: a meeting plan.
Activity name
10 minutes
"The strong wind blows"
Ice breaker
30 minutes
Role play activity
Practice conversation between sexual partners
10 minutes to discuss phrases to practice using
20 minutes
Wrap up and reflection
Check in with people to see how the activity felt
Note areas of remaining discomfort for future
5 minutes
Plan for next meeting
Decide on date, place and topic

Prepare yourself to talk about difficult topics

Think ahead about whether you are prepared to discuss planned agenda items. It is normal to find some topics difficult, uncomfortable or upsetting to discuss, but as a facilitator it is important to feel comfortable enough with the topic that you can help the group with their discussion.

As you are preparing a meeting, ask yourself:

  • What do I think about this topic?
  • Do I have strong feelings or judgments that might get in the way of allowing everyone to express their views? What can I do to ensure that this does not happen?
  • Is this a topic I am uncomfortable with? Will my discomfort make others too uncomfortable to have an open discussion? How can I make others feel it is OK to have an open discussion?

Seek support from someone else to help you prepare for difficult topics. You can also ask someone else to help you lead the discussion if you think you will not be comfortable with the points of view that may be raised.

See more advice about preparing yourself for uncomfortable or difficult discussions.