Anatomy of a Good Agenda

I don’t need to remind any of us what occurred in March of 2020 that led to a fundamental shift in the way we conduct business, learn, and generally engage with our communities. So in looking back on this year, I realize just how much we all grew in our practice working in a distributed/remote model. 

Many thanks to Shipra Kayan, a fantastic remote design thinking coach, for articulating the classification of organizational structures shown below. Like many of you probably experienced in your organizations, TechChange was a “high clumpiness” organization turned “FROg” (fully-remote organization). With this shift came new questions, challenges, and tools that pushed us to refine our model.

This summer, I held a webinar for TechChange’s How to Teach Online course where I discussed our experience design methods to synchronous trainings and workshops, aka ‘distributed events’, (you can watch it here, or sign up for the next course run to experience it in context of the full course)! Much of what I discuss informs not only virtual training and workshops, but holds recommendations for how to conduct meetings as well. There are various types of meetings ranging in size and engagement (shown below). The question to ask ourselves is not how to make the meetings smaller, but how to drive engagement up. 

So I introduce to you, the “Anatomy of Good Agenda”, be it a workshop, training, or meeting. This is what we use at TechChange to craft boutique virtual learning experiences. 

First and foremost — have an agenda*. At TechChange, we use our e-learning platform as an interactive agenda and archive of digital artifacts, but you could go as simple as a google doc if desired.

  1. Intros/Ice-Breaker
    • While some may bundle housekeeping and setting meeting norms and expectations with an icebreaker, I prefer to tackle those prior to this point in the agenda because it keeps things neat and reduces confusion. 
    • Many of the icebreakers we design introduce the tool we intend to use in the “content” portion of the agenda, in a low-stakes, gamified environment. Additionally, consider the tone you’d like to set for the remainder of the meeting. Is it highly collaborative? Is the expectation that for a successful meeting or workshop attendees are asked to speak regularly with one another? Make sure your icebreaker reinforces those expectations so that the first time everyone’s speaking isn’t when they’re asked to do The Big Content Task. 
    • Finally, I like to draw inspiration from childhood games and nostalgia when creating for virtual spaces, and have used collaborative whiteboard tools to support the design of icebreakers such as I-SPY scavenger hunts, Monster Mash, Telephone, and more… You can find some of the most popular virtual ice breakers to draw upon here.
    • What’s your favorite ice breaker or virtual community builder you’ve experienced? Comment below!
  2. Content
    • As briefly mentioned in the Icebreaker section above, TechChange utilizes collaborative whiteboard tools, such as Miro, Mural, Jamboard, etc. You can read a lovely article comparing the two most popular here. 
    • If you haven’t used tools like these before, don’t worry! The intuitive UI of these platforms enables steep learning curves, pinky promise. (Get a taste for Miro here)! You can type ideas on digital sticky notes, cluster them, vote for ideas, and run timers – just to name only a few features. People can enter anonymously and edit (so not everyone needs an account). 
    • This allows facilitators to frame content for participants, and the limitless working space gives users the ability to move from idea generation to idea development quickly. 
    • Now I didn’t just hand over mural/miro links and say be on your way. Best practice dictates to demo the skill beforehand, send time reminders throughout, and if possible, dedicate a notetaker or spokesperson depending on the comfort level of your group and the difficulty of the content task. 
  3. Energizer
    • An energizer can range anywhere from a digital disconnect (everyone turns their cameras and mics off and steps away from the meeting for a few minutes), to a guided stretch or meditation, to a fun virtual game!
    • I must confess, one of my favorites is a mindful meditation because I find Sara Raymond’s voice so peaceful. 
  4. Conclusion 
    • It can be tempting just to end the workshop or meeting, but best practice is to bring the event to a natural close, not an abrupt one. 
    • I like to use survey tools that give me a combination of quantitative and qualitative data; favorites include the TechChange polling and forms features, but I’ve also loved Sli.do’s word clouds and Zoom’s poll feature

What are you excited to incorporate in your practice at your next virtual event?

*And please, on behalf of all bladders everywhere – make 1 hour meetings 50 minutes, and 30 minute meetings 25. When you have back to back (to back to back) meetings, this will save you (and many of your colleagues) a lot of aches and pains. 


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