Resources for Meetings

This section includes resources about:

  • Designing effective meetings
  • Hosting effective meetings
  • Gathering information from meetings
  • Facilitation methods
  • Creating a meeting agenda

Designing Effective Meetings

Developing successful meetings is an important part of a facilitator’s role. Below is information on how to plan for and facilitate meetings that will encourage good participation and result in useful information to support the ICH initiative.

Be clear on the meeting purpose

Have a clear purpose for the meeting and what you would like to accomplish, and ensure that all participants consent to participating. Be sure to communicate the purpose and expectations of the meeting at the beginning of the meeting so that everyone understands.

Prepare and follow a meeting agenda

Develop a meeting agenda that includes the key activities for the meeting and the amount of time scheduled for each activity. Balance presentation time with time for discussion and community input. A well-planned agenda will help you stay on track while facilitating the meeting and make sure you get to every activity as planned. Share the meeting agenda with attendees so that they, too, are aware of the meeting’s activities and timing.

Strong facilitators approach meeting agendas with flexibility. There may be instances where you need to make changes to the activities or timing in the agenda to better fit the group’s dynamics. For this reason, it can be helpful to have backup activities on hand and be able to change in the moment depending on the group’s needs.

It is useful to have a more-detailed agenda for facilitators and a less-detailed one for participants – this allows facilitators more flexibility to change course during the meeting. See the Example Facilitator Agenda and Example Meeting Agenda in this section for ideas.

Consider your invitation

Depending on the purpose of your meeting, you may have a few people to invite, or perhaps you plan to invite the entire community. It is important to consider who should be at the meeting and tailor your invitation to those people. In many communities, personal invitations are considered more respectful to honour invitees and to signify the importance of attending the gathering. It may be the case that a personalized invitation is more effective than a post on the community’s Facebook page, or vice versa.

The wording of invitations is very important as they set the stage for the meeting. Invitations should focus on communicating the purpose and context of the meeting and inspiring people to attend. Remember that everyone may not be aware of the ICH planning process, so take the time to fill them in. There is nothing less welcoming than being invited to a meeting without being given any idea what it’s about or what to expect. Invitations should be simple and easy-to-read, and they should provide information on the logistics.

Example invitation

We would like to invite you to a community discussion about identifying the vision and goals for our cultural heritage. We are working to develop an Indigenous cultural heritage initiative that will support our community members to learn about and protect our culture. As a respected member of our community, we would greatly appreciate your ideas about the vision and goals that should be included in this plan.

The meeting will be held at the Community Hall from 5:00-8:00 p.m. on November 20th. Dinner will be provided. The meeting will involve large group and small group discussions in which you can share your ideas.

We want to hear from you! Please let us know by November 14th if you can make it. If you want to participate but can’t attend this meeting, please contact us.

Consider the logistics

To host an inclusive community meeting, consider the following logistics when making your plan:

Cultural protocolsHave cultural protocols been followed when scheduling and determining who to invite to the meeting?
LocationIs your location well known and easy to get to? Is there wheelchair accessibility or other factors that may inhibit people from getting to the location?
Physical spaceIs the space comfortable? Is there adequate seating, cleanliness, warmth, and space for everyone invited?
Audio/visual equipmentIs equipment needed? Does someone know how to use it?
FoodWill there be food, snacks or refreshments provided? Will there be enough for everyone invited? Are there any dietary restrictions to be mindful of?  
ChildcareWill there be childcare on site?
Date/timeIs the meeting taking place during business hours, in the evening, or on the weekend? Consider who the timing might include and exclude when scheduling your meeting. For example, parents may need childcare in the evenings, those who work full time may not be able to attend daytime meetings. There may be other competing communal, seasonal or traditional events taking place.
TransportationIs transportation required and available to support people in getting to your meetings?
Prizes/raffles/gamesWill there be games or door prizes at the meeting?
ResourcesWill you provide handouts (such as copies of presentations or meeting documents)? Do you have enough copies?
Keeping track of attendeesWill you have a sign-in sheet to collect names and contact information?

Ensure you have a plan to gather the information

Your role as a planner is to respectfully gather and integrate the information shared by community members into the plan so it reflects community voices. Before your meeting, determine an approach to record the information the community shares. Will you have note-takers present? Will you ask community members to take notes on sticky notes or flip charts? Make sure you have a way to collect the information shared and use it to inform the development of the initiative so that community input is not lost. For more information on possible approaches, see Gathering Information from Meetings.

Hosting Effective Meetings

Some of the key responsibilities of a facilitator during the meeting include the following:

Holding Space

In facilitator lingo, “holding space” is about creating a safe space for meaningful conversations. You will need to pay attention to the energy of the room and respond to it. Holding space means being observant and attentive to the flow and feeling of the meeting – and adapting your agenda if needed. For example, if people seem disengaged, try a different method for engaging. If people seem sleepy, have a meeting break or warm-up game. If people are getting sidetracked or argumentative in a large group discussion, break into small groups.

Managing Different Personalities and Preferences

It is inevitable that there will be different personalities and sharing preferences among guests at your meeting. Some may enjoy speaking and sharing their ideas in a large group, while others might prefer smaller groups or one-on-one. Some people like to talk, which can make it challenging for others who also want to contribute. As a facilitator, your job is to make sure everyone is included and can share their ideas in whatever way works best for them. When you bring together the wisdom of the whole group, you will have a more powerful plan.

Consider the following methods when facilitating meetings:

  • Provide multiple ways to contribute: This can include writing down thoughts or responses on flip charts, sticky notes or handouts; games; groups of two or three; larger breakout groups; moving between tables with different topics and more. See the section on Facilitation Methods for ideas.
  • Encourage smaller groups: If you are working with a large group, consider incorporating small group discussions/activities into your agenda. This will give everyone a chance to speak and is also an effective way to ensure everyone has an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas. Groups of three to five people are effective at supporting even the quietest of participants to share their thoughts.

Keeping the Conversation on Track

As a facilitator and meeting host, you are responsible for providing a safe and comfortable space for all guests. This includes moderating the conversation and making sure the time spent together achieves its intended purpose. You may need to exercise your role as the host and facilitator by respectfully refocusing a discussion or transitioning the group to a new activity. An effective way to do so might include the following response:

  1. Thank the person/group for their contributions.
  2. Acknowledge the importance/relevance of their contributions.
  3. Indicate that due to time, the group must transition to another topic/activity.
  4. Offer a way to return to the topic/discussion later, if appropriate. This could mean further discussion later in the meeting, adding it to a future meeting agenda or talking one-on-one during a break.

In planning discussions, people often go into details about specific issues before they need to, which can take away time for the broader thinking required when initially developing a plan. Here is an example of what a facilitator could tell a participant in that situation:

“Thank you for sharing that important idea. That will be important for us to consider as we develop an implementation plan for recruiting staff. I’m going to write your idea down here so that we can revisit it when we get to our conversation about potential challenges and opportunities. For now, I want to make sure we finish our conversation about the goals for ICH protection in our community and ensure we can hear from everyone.”

Gathering Information from Meetings

The purpose of community engagement is to ensure that the voices and ideas of community members are reflected in the ICH initiative. Therefore, it is essential that when you plan a meeting, you determine in advance how you will collect information and incorporate it into the plan.

Before the session, make sure participants are aware of how the information will be gathered and stored. Also ensure that they consent to it being recorded. When sensitive information is shared, you may want to stop recording. For example, taking notes when someone becomes very emotional may not be appropriate.

Methods of Gathering Information

Note takersHave specific people appointed to take notes on each conversation that occurs. If you are having small group conversations, you will need multiple note-takers. You can also appoint participants to take notes – this is best done in advance to ensure that the note-takers have the skills (typing fast, listening with attention, etc.)
Flip chartsHave participants record information on flip charts. At the end of the meeting, take pictures of the flip charts. Later, type up notes so the information is safely stored. You can also use sticky-notes in a similar way.
RecordingsMake an audio recording of the meeting and type up notes afterwards. This is best suited for virtual meetings but can be used in a live meeting as long as there is not too much background noise. Make sure you ask for permission from all participants before recording, and let them know how the recording will be shared and stored.
Graphic recordingA graphic recorder makes a visual of the key ideas at the meeting. This might include a large drawing on the wall of the key ideas that emerge throughout the meeting, or it might be a private drawing that is unveiled at the end of the meeting. You can also ask participants to record ideas with drawings, doodles, comics or designs.
Surveys or comment formsProvide questionnaires or feedback forms for participants to fill out during the session.
MapsWhen identifying ICH sites, participants can write on or place stickers on maps.

Incorporating the Information into the Plan

After the meeting, type up all of the notes. Go through the notes and highlight key ideas.

Once you have identified key ideas, group similar ideas together. This will give you a master list of the key ideas that emerged from the meeting. It does not matter how many people shared an idea – an idea shared by one person could be just as important as an idea shared by 10 people.

Use these key ideas as the raw information to inform a draft of the plan. Ideally, you will then share the draft with the same group of participants to ensure that you captured their ideas correctly and nothing important has been missed.

Facilitation Methods

The chart below describes common facilitation methods.

Facilitation MethodMaterials Needed
Talking circle: Participants sit in a circle and each person takes a turn sharing until everyone has had a chance to speak.

When to use it:
• Beginning and ending a community meeting
• Having participants share their vision or values for the ICH initiative
Depending on the topic, the facilitator may need a pen and paper to take notes
Individual reflection/sticky-note facilitation: During a planning meeting, each person is given time to personally reflect on a question. Participants are then encouraged to write or draw their thoughts on a sticky note. Participants then have the option to share their thoughts with the group verbally and/or put their sticky notes on the wall.

The facilitator can then organize all of the participants’ sticky notes into similar themes or ideas and review them with the group. This is an easy way to capture everyone’s ideas and have participants share ideas with the group.

If possible, have a facilitator on hand to help those who prefer to share orally to write their ideas down.

When to use it:
• Brainstorming with a group of people
• Vision, value and goal planning
Sticky notes
Surface to stick the sticky notes on (wall or flip chart)
Small group discussions: Breaking your large group gathering into small groups of two to four people can be a helpful way to inspire discussion and participation. After 15–20 minutes, the small groups are then brought back to the larger group to share their thoughts and reflections with everyone. Having the small groups record their discussion on a flip chart or piece of paper can be helpful in making sure the information from the group is captured.

When to use it:
• When you want to generate a lot of ideas quickly
• To reenergize the group
• To give those who are quiet in a large group setting a chance to share their thoughts and ideas in a smaller group
Flip chart / paper
World café/flip chart rotations: This method involves setting up a series of tables with each table having its own topic, flip chart and markers. Participants are seated at each table and are given a set amount of time (usually 15–30 minutes) to discuss that table’s topic and write their thoughts on the flip chart / paper on the table. When their time is up, participants move to a new table and start the process over again until everyone has had a chance to go to each table.

In world café, one person remains at each table (the table hosts) and helps guide the conversation. You may want to include table hosts if the topic is complex and needs explanation.

A similar process can also be used by putting multiple flip charts on the wall, with each flip chart having a question or topic at the top. Participants can then take turns recording their thoughts on each flip chart. In this method, you could allow participants to visit the flip charts on their own, or you could have a timed approach similar to world café, where participants visit each flip chart as a group.

When to use it:
• When you need to gather feedback on multiple topics in a timely and coordinated manner
• To set actions for each goal (each table or flip chart would be a goal and participants go to each station to write down potential actions)
Flip chart / paper
Dot prioritizing: This method is great for obtaining community input on matters that require prioritization or ranking in terms of importance. The areas that require prioritization are posted on a wall or listed on a large piece of paper, and each participant is given a set number of votes. Participants communicate their priorities by placing stickers (or check marks) on the areas they see as important.

When to use it:
• When you need community members to prioritize areas of the plan or make a decision
• To choose between vision statements or values
• To identify the top/more-important goals to include in the plan
• To identify the best actions to meet each goal
Flip chart / large paper

Additional Resources

If you are looking for additional facilitation methods or ideas, there are many resources available on the Internet. If the budget allows, you may decide to include an external consultant to facilitate and support community engagement.

Creating a Meeting Agenda

Just as planning for the bigger picture of the ICH program helps communities reach their goals, planning for the day of a meeting can help ensure that your meeting is effective. This plan can be represented as an agenda that outlines the details of the day.

See the Example Facilitator Agenda, below, which shows how to build a plan and schedule for your meeting. It is helpful to have a detailed agenda for facilitators and a simpler version for participants. As a facilitator, you may choose to change your methods or switch the order of topics part way through the meeting in response to the needs of the group or the flow of conversation – this is a good thing as it means you are being responsive to the group. Therefore, you don’t want to provide the participants with too many details about the meeting approach. A high-level participant agenda allows them to see the purpose and topics of the meeting without getting bogged down in details that may change as the meeting unfolds.

Example Facilitator Agenda

ICH Planning Meeting

Developing our ICH planning goals

November 20, 2021 – 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Located at Community Hall

Meeting Purpose: Develop our ICH plan goals

5:00–5:45 p.m.Welcome & opening prayer: dinner is servedDebra
5:45–6:00 p.m. Introduce meeting agendaDebra
6:00–6:20 p.m.Introduce and explain planning values: what they are, why they are important for ICH planning; share examples of values (for example, cultural stories/teachings, existing community documents)Jack
6:20–6:50 p.m.Activity #1: Sticky-note goal brainstorming Encourage participants to reflect on the question “What are the goals we need to keep in our hearts and minds as we work together to strengthen, protect and celebrate our ICH?” Encourage participants to write down the goals and values they feel are important for ICH planning and post their sticky notes on a piece of flip-chart paper tacked to the wall.   While members are posting their goals to the flip chart paper, Jack will sort and group the values based on similarities and differences. Debra will provide support to Elders and others who would like assistance in writing. Once all of the values are added and sorted into groupings, Jack will read back the values everyone shared.Jack

6:50–7:00 p.m.BREAK
7:00–7:15 p.m.Activity #2: Goal prioritizing Give participants three stickers each and ask them to place their stickers on the values they believe are most important for ICH planning. Encourage participants to take a 10-minute break after they have placed their stickers.Debra
7:15–7:45 p.m.Review and discuss as a group the sticker prioritization results and identify the top four or five goals. Confirm with participants whether they feel these should be the key goals for the ICH plan, or if further work should be done.Debra
7:45–8:00 p.m.Closing. Welcome participants to share any thoughts or reflections on the process.Jack

Example Participant Agenda

ICH Planning Meeting

Developing our ICH planning goals

November 20, 2021 – 5:00–8:00 p.m.

Located at Community Hall

Meeting Purpose: Develop our ICH plan values

5:00–5:45 p.m.Welcome & opening prayer. Dinner is served
5:45–6:00 p.m.Introduce meeting agenda
6:00–6:20 p.m.Introduce and explain planning values
6:20–6:50 p.m.Activity #1: Sticky-note goal brainstorming
6:50–7:00 p.m.BREAK
7:00–7:15 p.m.Activity #2: Goal prioritizing
7:15–7:45 p.m.Review activities
7:45–8:00 p.m.Closing reflections