lunch-time seminar

A while back, I posted a blog entry about why work should be more fun, but did not actually say anything terribly useful about how to make work more fun. I have been doing a little work on an idea for a short lunchtime seminar/ workshop that lets staff practice the essential skills for meetings, in a light and entertaining way. If possible, I’ll try running it at my workplace, and see how it goes. Details below, you might need to customise to suit your workplace but the basic idea should work.


this event will appeal to anyone who is not a Government Cabinet Minister, or who is fed up with just taking the minutes at meetings. Participants will take the part of a Cabinet Minister, for a mock Cabinet Meeting. The event is intended to be entertaining while offering practice in the interpersonal skills required to work effectively in meetings. New staff are particularly encouraged to attend. The event will take about two hours.

Set up

small number of participants - 6-8
arrive in room, and sit round the table, there is a name card at each seat, detailing which Minister is sitting there.
The facilitator introduces themself
people are to take the part of the Minister their name card indicates, including the First Minister who will chair the meeting
if the First Minister is really uncomfortable agree to change, but otherwise just proceed

explain that often what we do would be really fun if it were not for worrying about the consequences, this session aims to be fun, and the only consequences are that you might learn something.

facilitator flags up that it is important to recognise the difference between how meetings operate, and what they discuss

The facilitator outlines the principles for the day, which are on a flip chart
how meetings work best;
  • chatham house rules
  • people really listen
  • everyone gets a chance to speak
  • people get their points across clearly and succinctly
  • everyone feels comfortable (fun?)
  • ideas are drawn together effectively
  • clear actions are agreed
  • the meeting keeps to time

the participants are presented with an agenda (what), the agenda is long and dull,

the chair starts the agenda with welcome and introductions

after a short spell the facilitator interrupts, and explains that he is a government policy advisor and he has just heard an unconfirmed report from the manager at Edinburgh Castle that an alien spaceship has just landed there. Although unconfirmed, we believe the report to be true and the Cabinet has until the end of the meeting to decide the Scottish Government response, as it is believed that Scotland will be the focus of international media interest within the hour.

Allow the FM to continue to chair,

no additional facts are added, but if the conversation starts to flag, then the facilitator can introduce himself as a senior policy adviser with question prompts such as
  • what about the health implication
  • what about the constitutional implications
  • do we assume that they are friendly
  • etc

The facilitator closes the meeting fifteen minutes before the end of the session, and allows people to get out of character, by asking them how it all went, encouraging them to start thinking about the how, rather than the what

then refer participants back to the principles for good meetings outlined at the start, ask the group to reflect, both personally and as a group
  • what went well
  • what went badly
  • what to do differently next time
capture this on a flipchart, the principles of good meetings flipchart being on display at the time

feedback sheet handed out for completion before people leave
  • tick box - would I do this again
  • tick box - would I recommend it to someone else
  • will you personally do anything differently in future - actions?
  • any comments

thank people for attending, and close

if reconvened, then some members are dropped out and some new are added, this model of temporary membership is retained if the meetings continue as a series.

Update - this seminar has now run, and an update is provided here!