Leveraging a strategic agenda as a ‘Dance Card’
Some meetings are just complicated. There may be a number of topics, with a number of speakers, with a number of different pieces of equipment, multiple room set ups, and other support needed. This can be further challenging when there are a lot of people who want to help, but haven’t a clue what to do. If your meeting is high risk, it is worth doing a bit more planning.
If your meeting is high risk, it is worth doing a bit more planning....
Enter the ‘Dance Card.’ Cards were used over a hundred years ago as a way for women to track formal dances and dance partners. In many ways, a large, active meeting is very much like a formal dance with different speakers, partners, outcomes, etc. It is useful to have a way to know what is happening/when, and keeping track of how things are getting done. The ‘Dance Card’ idea can be used to create such a tool.
At times, there may be an argument for two agendas, but things change and having two agendas that get out of sinc is a risk. Keeping all of the detail in one place, and fairly simple, can keep the process from becoming too messy. A Dance Card is not the kind of agenda all of the participants see, but the kind that managers really like... they want to know what to expect in a high-risk meeting. It is like pulling back the curtain and being able to see what the Wizard of Oz is really doing...
Defensive Moves: Start with a strategic agenda, reformat the file so that your table can be wider (such as rotating to landscape view, changing table widths, etc. so that you can add more columns and information). Depending on your meeting, you will want to add columns to the table. Information on the expanded agenda or ‘Dance Card’ might include logistics like:
CAPTION: What the example (image above) shows: A large full-day meeting that splits into three work groups in different rooms mid-day, with hosted lunch and breaks, and final reporting out at the end. There are notes being taken by different people and only in some sessions. There are notes detailing when handouts (HO) are used/ needed and distributed, as well as equipment (tracking equipment may not be as important if you have enough for every room and do not require additional set up).
Defensive Moves: Presentations that are more than a simple talk can benefit from a ‘Dance Card’ agenda. This is particularly true if there are multiple speakers, a demonstration, or audience participation. It could document speaker roles and transition times, how to move people or equipment for the demo (for instance), and how to do the set up before the meeting moving things in for a demonstration for instance, or even to document what will be said. “8:20 move demo table in to spot marked w/green tape.” Think talk shows – everything done by the host is documented and practiced so that the show is as perfect and trouble-free as possible.
Defensive Moves: ‘Just in case assistance’--the ‘Dance Card’ could include other information such as who to call if there is a problem with the room (power failure, fire alarm, feedback, the tricky power plug, etc.). Knowing a few key bits of information could save lives in an emergency.
Defensive Moves: ‘Now What?’--To keep from getting lost or forgetting what to do, the ‘Dance Card’ could include more detailed presentation notes such as “Introduction: Icebreaker: First car exercise”; “Name tags supplies are with Linda...,” “Door prizes can be picked up at...” An example might also be to use equipment, such as a pointer, "USE POINTER/point@timeline.” Any announcements or reminders could be noted along with who would be making them.
A Dance Card could also include who is doing clean up, or room set up (as in chairs and tables, room design, etc.). It could also list emergency numbers if the power goes out or if there is a problem, where the fire exits are, non-emergency information, etc. This tool could be easily expanded to cover logistics for any number of people over any number of days. What makes it particularly useful is that it captures and communicates what needs to go on, who needs to do it, identifies areas where additional services may be needed, and makes it possible to share this information with everyone supporting the meeting. Add whatever is needed to ensure the best meeting possible—your participants are counting on it!
An agenda is more than a grocery list and more than just a road map. It can force you to think through how to make a process work smoothly down to the tiniest detail. When the stakes are high, this tool can be a life saver, make that complicated meeting function efficiently, and staff look like consummate professionals. Make your meetings more efficient, effective, and productive.
REFERENCE: Meetings Survival Guide, by Kath Collier, Cispus Institute (http://www.awsplearningcenters.org/cispus-institute)
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