Plan Your Best Meeting: Identify Your Participants

In the first post in this series Plan Your Best Meeting: Purpose and Agenda, we focused on the meeting purpose and tying it to your agenda. Next, we’ll identify the participants needed to help us achieve our meeting purpose.

meeting participants
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It’s like stakeholder analysis

When we start a new project, we do stakeholder analysis to determine who needs to participate in a project. This is based on what they do, whether they make decisions, and so on. We need to do the same activity on a smaller scale each time we plan a meeting to identify the participants. If you have a stakeholder matrix, use it as your starting point. Check out my Workshop Participant Planner if you don’t have one.

Start with roles first

Start with roles (not job titles) when thinking about who to invite. Consider the types of roles that will need to be represented to achieve your meeting outcomes. This is my standard list:

  • Facilitator – The organizer is often the facilitator. For larger meetings (more than 6 participants) having a separate facilitator will keep the meeting moving, giving the analyst the chance to analyze in real time.
  • Scribe – The scribe takes notes and manages time. I sometimes ask someone to perform this role if I’m facilitating and wearing an analyst cap. Having a scribe for larger meetings is essential. (Or, better yet, hit the Record button on your meeting software for a complete record of your meeting!)
  • Decision makers, SMEs– Decision makers and subject matter experts are the engine that will make your meeting run. These are the people from whom you are getting information or decisions.
  • Observer – Observers can include team members who need to understand content but don’t need to contribute. Include observers sparingly. Too many observers can get meetings off topic when they go “rogue.” Participants in this category must understand what they are there to observe and why.

Other meeting participants to consider (or not)

Avoid inviting Optional attendees people who will not contribute to the meeting’s purpose. Every person invited must have a stake in the outcome of the meeting. Send meeting outputs to people that want to be kept in the loop but who don’t need to attend.

I have a “phone a friend” category for participants who have subject matter expertise but aren’t needed for the whole meting. Many folks are happy to be on stand-by. It also shows that you respect their expertise AND time. Reach out to those folks in advance and ask them to be available for a quick instant messenger or email in case you need them.

I also include a category for Delegates in my planning. Some required participants, such as executives, can’t attend every meeting. The organizer and required attendee should identify delegates up front and then always include them when inviting those required attendees.

Fill out your participant planner

Now, fill out your participant planner with names of people you will invite. I recommend doing a quick brainstorm with your lead or a colleague to ensure you a solid list.

But you still aren’t ready to send that invitation! Nope. Next, we think about how to get those participants ready to participate (and that includes you too). That’ll be the next post in this series.

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