How To Prepare For Facilitating A Strategy Workshop

You have been tasked with facilitating a strategy workshop but are not sure where to begin? Don’t worry. Having been in your situation many times, I have developed the following detailed checklist to set you up for success.

Follow this 14-point checklist step-by-step to prepare for any strategic planning meeting.

Strategy Workshop Preparation Checklist

  1. Familiarize yourself with the business
    • What is the mission of the business? What industry is it in? What are its main products and services? Who are its customers? What has been its historic performance?
    • Get to know the people
  2. Discuss objectives and expectations with the leader of the business
    • Become clear about the meeting purpose and the desired results
    • Ask about the strategic context
      • Is there a higher order strategy that places expectations or objectives on this business?
      • Are there shareholder or senior leadership expectations that set constraints for the business strategy?
    • Ask who should be participating in the meeting.
      • Keep in mind that this is supposed to be a strategy workshop.
      • The right level and mix of seniority, subject matter expertise, business insight and outside perspective is important
    • Clarify and seek permission to access business resources that you need for preparation
      • Ask about who can lead or support content preparation for the meeting, such as data analysis
      • Get access to data needed
      • If applicable, ask who you can contact to organize meeting logistics, such as venue preparation, food & beverage arrangements etc.
    • Ask about any special circumstances you need to be aware of, such as team dynamics, office politics, conflicts of interest
      • These are obviously sensitive questions. But if appropriate to ask, they reveal important information about the expected meeting dynamics
    • Pro Tip: ask about any special expectations placed in you as the facilitator
  3. Review meeting objectives, expectations, participants, and strategic context
    • Check for congruence and feasibility to cover the expectations in a workshop
    • Deside which strategic model or strategic process to apply to achieve purpose and objectives
    • Note: this is a good to chance to ask follow up questions or to adjust the scope as needed.
    • Bonus Tip: Click here for a strategic framework I have found very useful in facilitating strategic planning meetings
  4. Lock yourself in and draft the workshop concept
    • Set length of workshop needed to achieve meeting objectives
    • Draft workshop agenda along strategy process
    • Select strategy workshop tools and discussion starters
    • Design meeting location, venue, and meeting room arrangement
    • Plan meeting logistics such as venue, food & beverage options, and materials needed
      • Consider if you need break-out rooms or space for individual and team work
    • Estimate meeting costs
  5. Discuss workshop proposal incl. concept, agenda, cost, and support needed with business leader and seek endorsement
    • Remember this is not your workshop. You are facilitating on the business leader’s behalf. It may be OK to bring in your thoughts and ideas. But make sure you are on the same page and agreeable with her/his purpose and ideas for the workshop (It’ll potentially save you a lot of trouble and embarrassment later)
  6. Collect and analyze data for insights
    • For a strategy workshop you will want to analyze 3 sets of data:
      • Historical financial data about the business
      • Historical financial data about the industry
      • Historical financial data about key target markets
      • Important: seek future estimates / projections for each of these from reputable, trustworthy sources
    • Work with the nominated team(s) to analyze relevant data at least 4 weeks prior to the workshop, longer if possible.
    • Seek for patterns in the data or specific insights to identify threats to the health of the business and opportunities for future growth
    • Remember that you may not be the expert at what the numbers mean. Lean on the team the business leader advised you can work with. Guide the team towards the insights you are seeking.
  7. Set up meeting logistics
    • Book venue (and travel if needed),
    • Order food & beverage arrangements and
    • Purchase/arrange workshop materials
  8. Send out meeting invitations
    • Include meeting purpose, objectives, agenda and preparation instructions in the invitation
    • Send invites well ahead of time to allow for participants to prepare and clarify questions and expectations
    • Be available to clarify such questions
  9. Prepare workshop materials, visual aids, flip charts, facilitation tools, and discussion questions
    • A great tool to facilitate the strategic planning workshop is the OGSM. Learn more about my introduction of OGSM here.
    • Prepare workshop materials. Click here for my preparation checklist for all materials and equipment you will need for your workshop.
    • Prepare ice-breakers, brainteasers and small games for breaks
    • Pro Tip: if you facilitate workshops more often, put together a small workshop kit with all materials you need so that you have them handy every time. Find everything you need here on my aforementioned preparation checklist.
  10. Get to know key meeting participants up front
    • Learn from them about the business, its situation, and their thoughts on its strategic direction
    • Build rapport or personal relationship with key opinion leaders or decision makers / influencers
    • Pro tip: Seek to participate at a management meeting as the proverbial ‘fly on the wall’ to observe meeting etiquette, roles of participants, and business culture.
  11. Discuss insights from data analysis and open questions with the business leader (latest one week prior to the workshop)
  12. Visit workshop venue and familiarize yourself with the facilities
    • Check meeting room and seating arrangement
    • Test projector and visual aids
    • Familiarize with location of washrooms and emergency exists
  13. Review workshop concept once more
    • Review talking points and visual aids
    • Rehearse critical aspects of the workshop up front
    • Review responses to your invitation to make sure key workshop participants are indeed attending. Follow up with participant or business leader as needed.
  14. Relax.
Workshop Materials
Double check once more if you have all workshop materials.

You are all set! Now look forward to the meeting knowing that you are well prepared.

Download the printable version of the 14-step checklist here to help you prepare.

Preparation Time

This checklist will take you probably 4-6 weeks to complete depending on the specific circumstances of your workshop. So make sure to plan ahead. The earlier you can start, the better.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

Alexander Graham Bell


Preparing to facilitate a strategy workshop can be a daunting task. The detailed 14-step checklist is a proven step-by-step guide to prepare for a successful strategic planning meeting.

If you have any questions or comments, why don’t you leave me a reply below. Would love to hear about your thoughts or experiences on how to prepare for a strategy workshop.

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  1. Pingback: Top 10 OGSM Tips To Rock Your Strategy

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