Have you ever had an experience of an event that seemed like a complete experience – maybe it started with some confusion, then the context became clear, the group came together, experienced or wrestled through some intense sections, then finally moved to a satisfying conclusion?

A symphony, a play and even novels and great presentations often have this kind of movement or drama as an underlying structure. There is something universally human about this flow. It has several (often 3) movements or acts, starting simply, building to a climax, and then a denouement where everything comes together and resolves, and finally a closing.

When a facilitated event has this kind of movement or flow within it, the participants feel satisfied and happy with the experience. They are more likely to support the conclusion they have come to.

It is not difficult to design sessions that have this kind of experience built in.

ICA long ago created what we call a “symphony plan”, which builds in an opening, three “movements”, or “acts” and a closing.  Any exercises or methods we plan to use are put into the movements of the event.  A visual of the simple blank planning form is below, along with an example of a meeting designed with the form.

If you are working with a single agenda item, you can use this model as a way to structure the flow of the activities or methods you are using to address this item.

One of our colleagues, Bruce Williams, added a tweak to this model for multi-agenda-item meetings such as board, committee or staff meetings. He suggests putting the “quick” agenda items in the first movement to start accomplishing things quickly, then putting the “major” agenda item(s) in the second movement, where the intense work happens, then the “minor” items in the 3rd movement for less intensity. It is included in his book “More than 50 Ways to Build Group Consensus”, Corwin Press, 2006.

If you would like to learn more about planning for eventfulness and orchestrating successful meetings, try our Meetings that Work course or the Art and Science of Participation.

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