Updated: Jul 6
Meetings are a crucial aspect of any organization's workflow, but they can often become derailed by unproductive conversations that sidetrack the intended purpose. As a meeting facilitator, it is essential to maintain focus and ensure that discussions align with the meeting's objectives. In this blog post, we will explore one of the powerful meeting facilitation techniques called the "Parking Lot," which can help you prevent unhelpful conversations from derailing your meetings and keep them on track.
What is the Parking Lot technique? At the beginning of your meeting, grab a flip chart or a whiteboard and write "Parking Lot" on it. Explain to the participants that the Parking Lot is a designated space for capturing ideas, topics, or discussions that arise during the meeting but are not directly relevant to the agenda. This technique allows you to acknowledge and address these ideas while keeping the meeting focused.
How to use the Parking Lot - a meeting facilitation technique:
Introduce the concept: Start by introducing the Parking Lot to the participants. Explain that it serves as a temporary holding area for valuable ideas or discussions that may not align with the current meeting's objectives.
Stay vigilant: As the facilitator, pay attention to the conversation during the meeting. If you notice the discussion veering off into a side channel that is not conducive to achieving the meeting's goals, allow it to continue briefly before intervening.
Redirect the conversation: Once you sense that the conversation has strayed off track, interject and acknowledge the participants' engagement by saying something like, "This is a great conversation, but I'm not sure it's right for this meeting. Let's put it in the Parking Lot, and I will follow up with people on it afterwards."
Document the sidetracked topic: Take note of the sidetracked topic, whether it's an idea, question, or issue, and physically write it in the Parking Lot space on the flip chart or whiteboard. This gesture demonstrates that their contribution has been heard and valued.
Follow up after the meeting: As a responsible facilitator, it's crucial to follow up on the items placed in the Parking Lot. Schedule separate discussions or meetings with relevant individuals to address the sidetracked topics outside the current meeting's scope.
Benefits of using the Parking Lot technique:
Maintaining focus: By redirecting unproductive conversations to the Parking Lot, you can ensure that the meeting stays on track and progresses toward its intended objectives.
Acknowledging participants' contributions: The Parking Lot technique shows participants that their ideas and concerns are taken seriously, fostering a sense of inclusion and engagement.
Effective facilitation: Utilizing the Parking Lot technique showcases your skills as a facilitator who can manage discussions and maintain a productive meeting environment.
Conclusion: Meetings are valuable opportunities for collaboration, decision-making, and progress. However, they can easily be derailed by conversations that are not aligned with the meeting's purpose. The Parking Lot technique provides a simple yet effective way to manage such situations. By employing this technique, you can redirect off-topic discussions, maintain focus, and ensure that everyone's contributions are valued. Remember, a successful meeting facilitator is not just someone who keeps discussions on track but also someone who follows up on the parked ideas, fostering a culture of open communication and effective collaboration within the organization.
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