This week, 352 hosted Michael Wilkinson, founder of Leadership Strategies, as our guest at Off the Record. As a certified master facilitator, and a true thought leader in facilitation, Michael has deep experience in creating engaging and collaborative meetings, helping facilitate groups to make decisions faster and achieve better meeting outcomes. Rich Goidel, VP of Innovation at 352, moderated a dynamic conversation that brought great meeting structure and planning to life, including:

Creating a meeting agenda is not your first step

Contrary to what most people believe, Michael shared that if your first step in planning a meeting is creating an agenda, you’re doing it wrong. Successful meetings are predicated by thinking through the “6 Ps” of meeting preparation: Purpose, Products, Participants, Probable Issues, Process and Platform/Place. We loved seeing Michael lead us through a real-time demonstration of kicking off a meeting once you have these details with Kacie Lett, SVP of Strategy at 352. Check out the video to see how he walked her through creating an engaging meeting introduction for an upcoming sales and marketing alignment meeting based on her 6 Ps!

Not all meetings are created equal

Michael gave us some practical advice about how much time to spend on meeting preparation. His experience has shown that preparation time depends on the type of meeting. Is this the kind of meeting that occurs regularly and you’re simply reviewing information, such as a staff meeting? Or, is this the kind of meeting where you need to create something like a new process or workflow, or come to a critical decision? For day-to-day meetings, by creating a standard meeting format, you can take less than 30 minutes to prepare even with the 6 Ps. For more critical thinking and participation meetings, you might need several days to prepare and practice for a 4-hour meeting. No matter what kind of meeting you’re having, great preparation will lead to great meeting outcomes.

Virtual meetings aren’t simply in-person meetings in a different format

Virtual meetings require different preparation and different types of in-meeting engagement. As a rule of thumb for in-person meetings, Michael recommends having participants do something engaging every 20 – 30 minutes for the best outcomes. It’s easier for audiences to check out of virtual meetings, so to keep audiences engaged, and so he recommends a participatory exercise every 10 – 15 minutes. These engagements can vary depending on the desired outcomes and available platforms, but round robin Q&A and virtual whiteboards are tools to consider to keep engagement and capture vital information from the audience.

Remember that we are humans, even in virtual meetings

Michael also shared that most leaders in business feel that the stress of creating human interaction is far greater now due to our remote working environments. He recommends making video sharing mandatory so people are more present in the meeting. Michael also cautioned against calling people at random. In order to keep people alert and in the moment, posing frequent round robin questions to the whole group is more effective because people know they will have to engage on a regular basis.

Facilitation Resources

Want to know more about facilitation? Check out the resources below:

Join us for our next Off the Record with Alex Gonzalez, Chief Innovation Officer at the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Please RSVP to join in the discussion with Alex as he talks about the state of innovation in Atlanta.


352 is an innovation and growth firm. Leading companies hire us to find billion-dollar opportunities, build killer new products and create hockey-stick growth. We bring grit and new-fashioned thinking to innovation, digital development and growth marketing.