How To Prepare

Proper preparation for your virtual meeting makes for a better meeting.

How to Prepare

Group Decision Center facilitators are trained in the process of group discussion and decision making. To ensure your meeting goes as smooth as possible, a planning meeting is set-up with your organization by a facilitator from the Group Decision Center. 

A facilitator will meet with a representative or session leader from your organization to develop a plan for what will happen during the electronically facilitated meeting. This planning session also provides the facilitator background knowledge of the organization needed to facilitate the meeting. The facilitator and your organization's contact will discuss desired outcomes and goals of the electronically facilitated meeting. They will then determine which tools and agenda items will meet these objectives. 

A little preparation will make the planning meeting go quicker and smoother. 

Proper preparation for your virtual meeting makes for a better meeting. When participants know what to expect and what topics will be discussed, they are better prepared. Participants can formulate some ideas on the topic prior to meeting, and less time is then spent in the meeting waiting for participants to formulate ideas.

Group Decision Center facilitators have developed the following checklist with tips and advice on preparing for the planning meeting.




Meeting Planning Checklist




Book a Planning Meeting

You will first need to book a time for a planning meeting which will typically be scheduled one to two months in advance of your meeting and take about 30 to 60 minutes. The more participants or more complex your meeting will be, the more planning time we will need. In addition, the more prepared you are for the planning meeting, the less time the meeting will take. The planning meeting will take place at the Group Decision Center or the Office of Teaching and Learning. We will let you know the location of the meeting ahead of time.




Choose a Main Contact

To ensure your meeting is well organized we encourage you to select one individual to serve as the main point of contact for the meeting. The main contact should be knowledgeable about your organization, have the authority to make decisions about your facilitated meeting, and be a good communicator. Group Decision Center staff will communicate directly with this individual regarding all aspects of the meeting. 




Choose Meeting Details

You will work with the Group Decision Center staff as well as your meeting participants to plan a date(s), time, and place that works for everyone. Bring some potential dates and times to the planning meeting so we can book your meeting. 

We can book your meeting or series of meetings up to a year in advance. If there are less than 30 people attending your meeting, the meeting will be held in the Group Decision Center meeting space. In some meetings with less than 30 people, if requested, we may bring the equipment to your space pending approval of the Group Decision Center. If you have more than 30 people attending your meeting, you will need to work with Group Decision Center staff to reserve a space for the meeting. There are technical requirements a meeting space must be able to accommodate. It is vital that you work with our staff to ensure your meeting space can accommodate the technology.




Identify Specific Goals

Goals can vary from organization to organization. Identifying goals for the meeting helps the Group Decision Center design a meeting that will help your group achieve those goals. We will work closely with your main contact to ensure all parts of the meeting are contributing to your goal. 

The goals of your group could include developing a full strategic plan, writing a mission and vision statement, refining workflows for greater efficiency, conducting focus groups for research, civil discussion about contentious topics, and many more.  

IRB approval is required for any focus group meetings or other research-related meetings in which you plan to publish the outcomes.




Determine Participants

Participants for our facilitated meetings can vary widely. Most likely you will know who you want to participate in your meeting. Individuals can be faculty, staff, students, or from off campus. You will need to give us an approximate count of the individuals who will participate. Your group is responsible for inviting and ensuring your participants are at the meeting.

If you choose to have participants from off campus, your organization will need to purchase a parking permit or find alternate transportation to get them to campus. All meetings that have individuals from off campus participating must in some way be affiliated with NDSU business or research to be able to use the Group Decision Center for free. Groups not affiliated with NDSU, businesses, and non-profits are eligible to use the Group Decision Center for a nominal fee




Prepare a Meeting Agenda

If you haven't already done so, now is the time to prepare a meeting agenda. This meeting agenda is useful for the planning meeting. During the planning meeting there may be some changes to your agenda. Ultimately, the agenda is up to you but our staff have a wealth of experience with planning these types of meetings and will provide you with recommendations on any agenda or schedule changes. 

Once the agenda is set, it is best to send it out to your participants ahead of the meeting. This gives them time to prepare for the topics to be discussed. You will find that this enhances the meeting experience for your participants. 




Determine Modes for the Meeting

The Group Decision Center is especially equipped to handle virtual meetings or meetings where all questions and responses are posted in an online format.  However, we realize that not everyone is comfortable with a fully virtual meeting and not all agenda items are ideal for virtual responses. This is why we offer a mixed mode approach to the use of the Group Decision Center. 

Mixed mode meetings offer greater flexibility for meeting planners by allowing each organization to choose whether portions of the meeting should use a virtual format or a traditional format. For example, an organization may want to give an initial overview of their products and services prior to soliciting virtual, anonymous feedback. Or perhaps during the course of a virtual meeting there is a comment that needs further clarification. It might be best to stop the virtual discussion temporarily and make the clarification for the entire group.

If you believe your meeting will need some form of a virtual participant poll, it is useful to get those questions to the meeting facilitator as early as possible. There is an option for our staff to create polls and additional questions during the meeting but we like to have as much information prepared ahead of time as possible. 

Each meeting will have its own unique mixture of meeting modes.




Identify Meeting Supplies Needed

The Group Decision Center has a lot of meeting amenities. It is a good idea to prepare a list of items you will need for your meeting. In your planning meeting you can discuss with your facilitator which items are supplied by the Group Decision Center and which items you will need to provide. In general, the Group Decision Center can handle much of your technology needs but most items outside of that will need to be supplied by your organization.

It might be useful for you to provide your participants with some scratch paper and pencils or pens to make notes on. 




Determine if you are Serving Food and Beverages

You are more than welcome to provide food and beverages for your participants. If you plan to serve food and beverages, please note you are required to order them through NDSU Catering. The cost of food and beverages is billed directly to your organization.

The Group Decision Center needs to know ahead of time what your catering order is in order to prepare a table(s) for food and beverage service. We also need this information to ensure that there are adequate breaks built into the agenda. Tables for your food may be placed inside or outside the room depending on your seating arrangement and number of participants. 




Other Organizational Background Information

As facilitators of your meeting we need to know some information about your group. Providing us a website is a good way for us to gather some of this information. We may also gather information in the form of questions during your planning meeting.

If you are doing any kind of strategic planning or mission/vision statement work, we will need to know information related to that. For example, any prior versions of the strategic plan or mission/vision statement. We may also need more in-depth information about what it is that your group does.

If your organization has specific needs or accommodations, please let us know. The further in advance we know, the better we can prepare.





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