It is important to identify the people who are affected by or can influence the issues under consideration in the workshop. Without knowing who needs to attend, and how to address their concerns is not really possible.
Effective meetings provide participants with clearly defined roles. These roles vary and can be assigned either before or at the beginning of the meeting. Participants who will serve as presenters should be determined here as well. Not all roles are needed for all meetings. The most common meeting roles include;
The individual that has the authority to make final decisions; the chairperson sets the agenda and has the power to set constraints (e.g. amount of time devoted to agenda items)
The recorder creates the minutes by writing down for the group’s review the main points of what is said, decisions made and pending actions. Recorders should serve as “neutrals” capturing people’s exact words to show they have been heard; they should not participate in the discussion themselves, other than to ask for clarifications of what they’ve recorded. The information and comments recorded provides the basis for follow up documentation. Sometimes the recorder can simply be the organiser (in small meetings of less than 7, for example). However, it is advised to plan on a formal recorder for larger workshops or those where the complexity of the subject requires the organiser’s full concentration on the group.
Recorders can be brought from outside the project (such as other advisors, or non-project team members). They can also be appointed from the project team to serve in the recorder role for the meeting. When a team member is selected to record, the issue of their participation can be solved either by having them bow-out as a participant in that meeting, or otherwise have them remain silent while they are recording, adding their comments just before the final closure of the conversation. For large complex workshops, plan on having multiple recorders.
The facilitator keeps the group focused, directing conversation flow so all members have the opportunity to participate, keeping track of time and recording on flipcharts if used. For large, complex workshops — where multiple breakout groups may be required —more than one facilitator should be planned. This allows more participants’ needs to be attended to, and introduces variety into the process. It also helps to have more than one facilitator attending to the process when the issues are particularly challenging. A suggested working ratio is 1 organiser to every 15 participants, but this number can vary.
The presenter is specifically invited to a workshop, and provides substantive material for the participants. Presenters should be provided relevant background and allotted presentation times. Depending upon needs, some presenters will participate in the entire workshop, others only for their segment.