Session Plans

Really effective and efficient meetings are rarely achieved by accident.
The following diagram shows a small section of an off-site workshop plan which reflects the structured thinking about each part of the workshop: What it is intended to achieve (objective), how it takes place (process), what it requires to allow it to happen (inputs), its timings, and what happens to the outputs.

This level of planning helps the workshop designer structure a logical and effective process which engages and changes people’s thinking. It also allows them to objectively challenge their own design: Does it utilise inputs and creativity? Could more be done off-line? Does it grow potential as well as performance? Does it reflect and reinforce the culture?
I was first introduced to session plans over 20 years ago. At the time I felt they were a bureaucratic waste of time, but I completed my first plan because it was required of me. After that I realised their true value:
  1. They are amazing helpful in laying out your thinking on what you want to achieve and how. They literally help you to design.
  2. If you are working with others to deliver a meeting, they are great at helping to clarify expectations and responsibilities
  3. They enable you to follow different paths as opportunities arise within the meeting, knowing that you have a clear structure to fall back on.
Completing a session plan is easy:
  1. Begin with the Item title for each activity
  2. Then lay out clearly what you intend to achieve by each in the Objective column (QFD for meetings can help you to define this).
  3. Use the process column to draft your ideas on how the objective can best be achieved. Try and make your activities as interactive as practical.
  4. Consider how long will be required for each process step and write these in the duration (‘Durn.’) column. Add up the times to ensure they will fit, and adjust the process if required.
  5. Put in the Time that each item will start, and schedule breaks for every block of around 2 hours (or less, if your activities are not sufficiently participative).
  6. Consider the inputs you will require to make sure each section will work, and write these in the Inputs column. This forms a useful checklist for what you need to prepare/take.
  7. Clarify the outputs from each activity in the Outputs column. Think through how the outputs will be handled and taken forward.  Some may form inputs to other activities.
A blank session plan template can be downloaded here: blank session plan

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