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Meeting Purpose and Desired Outcomes

Why are you having your meeting, and what do you hope to accomplish as a result of the meeting? Those are the critical questions you need to answer before you even begin to plan your meeting. The answers to those questions should appear right at the top of the meeting agenda. That purpose statement is the answer to the question Why?

Before you call for any meeting, push yourself to deeply examine why you need the meeting.

  • Has the purpose of the meeting been identified as "discussing new communication strategies" when the real issue is trust between management a

    Key Points To Take Away

    --- A purpose statement should explain why the group is meeting.
    --- A clear desired outcome statement defines a specific, tangible accomplishment.
    --- A clear purpose and desired outcomes will help keep your meeting on track.
    nd staff?
  • Are you calling a meeting the purpose of selecting a new math curriculum to boost lethargic math scores? But have you considered first meeting to examine the test data to determine the specific areas/skills on which students seem to be falling down? Perhaps the entire curriculum does not need to be dismantled; maybe it just needs to be supplemented.
  • Or, your first thought may be: "We need to get together to talk about constructing a parking lot." But, if you push yourself, you realize the real purpose of the meeting should be to identify the parking problems around the school and analyze the causes -- before you float one possible solution.

To follow the parking lot situation through to resolution, a sample purpose statement might read:


Meeting Purpose: to identify the school's parking problems and their causes as the first step to improving parking.

Desired outcomes are a description of the specific accomplishments of the meeting -- tangible things that you want to have in your hand at the end of the meeting. In the parking lot example, the outcomes might be:

  • An agreed-on list of the problems with the parking
  • An agreed-on list of the causes of those problems
  • A list of next steps

Notice that the outcomes are nouns, not verbs. The final outcome is a "list," not "discussing." At the end of the meeting, you want to have a clear accomplishment -- a tangible thing in your hand.

NEXT WEEK IN GREAT MEETINGS: Three parts to good meeting design.

About Great Meetings

Pam Plumb and Dee Kelsey are your facilitators in charge of Education World's Great Meetings series. They are also authors of the popular guide to meeting facilitation, Great Meetings! Great Results. Together, Pam and Dee have more than 40 years' experience facilitating change and training meeting leaders.

Learn more by clicking the links below:

* Read biographies
Learn about Pam and Dee.

* Read a "backgrounder"
What will you learn from this series?

* See the Great Meetings archive
See past articles in the series.