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Meetings can veer off-topic very easily as team members raise additional questions that weren’t on the agenda. While it’s likely the additional topics are important, they will throw the discussion in a new direction. Suddenly the hour is up and you’ve got nowhere.
Want to know the easiest way to stay on track?
Create a parking lot matrix and park those wayward discussions until next time.
It helps keeps meetings focused, make everyone feel heard, while not discounting important ideas or questions.
What is a Parking Lot Matrix?
The Parking Lot Matrix is a facilitation technique commonly used during meetings, workshops, and brainstorming sessions to manage and organize ideas, questions, or topics that arise but are not directly relevant to the current discussion. It provides a way to temporarily “park” these off-topic items for later consideration, allowing the primary discussion to stay focused and on track. You can also use it to record topics that are not related to the current meeting’s agenda.
By putting these off-topics items to the side, you are not ignoring them, but ensuring they will be dealt with later. Placing these parked ideas in a visual parking lot allows you to easily pull them into the agenda for another time.
Why is it important to have a Meeting Parking Lot?
A Parking Lot Matrix is here to maintain the flow and efficiency of a meeting or workshop by preventing tangential discussions from derailing the main agenda. It ensures that all ideas and questions are captured and addressed at a more appropriate time. Besides it creates a more organized and productive meeting environment. By capturing off-topic items, participants feel heard and validated, which can boost engagement and creativity.
With so many teams working remotely, it’s more important than ever to create an online agenda for your remote meetings. Using an online collaborative meeting agenda on Conceptboard allows everyone to contribute to the agenda, which drives transparency and inclusiveness. It also makes it easy to park items, then drag them into the agenda for the next time.
Using a Parking Lot Matrix template
A meeting parking lot template is a facilitation tool that you can use during meetings or workshops to capture unrelated topics. But, the template takes it a step further with a matrix that can help you identify actionable next steps. Combine it with the meeting minutes template for a comprehensive summary of a meeting.
The template has two main sections:
Topics under discussion
This is where you invite team members to add their unrelated topics onto sticky notes for further discussion.
Divided into four quadrants, the matrix is ranked on ease of implementation vs improvement value. Therefore you should move ideas into one of the four quadrants titled: Look for Opportunities to use, Keep on the radar, Consider later and Do not consider.
Tips on how to make use of the Parking lot Matrix template
Those sticky notes that need to be followed-up on should be turned into action items and assigned to someone. You can also give a due date, such as the next meeting, to report back on progress. This way instead of finding answers then and there, you can keep focused on the task at hand.
Also, choosing a moderator during the meeting that keeps track of placing topics in the parking lot is helpful. They need to be attentive to side discussions and promptly acknowledge and record off-topic items in the Parking Lot. They should also be prepared to address those items at an appropriate time or provide a clear explanation for why some items may not be relevant to the current discussion.
Overall, the Parking Lot Matrix is a helpful tool for keeping meetings focused and ensuring that all ideas and questions are acknowledged and addressed appropriately. It promotes effective communication, collaboration, and follow-through on action items, making it a valuable technique in various professional settings.
We’ve got lots more ideas to help you maintain control of remote meetings on our blog: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communication: A Guide for Remote Teams and 6 easy ways to increase participation in your next virtual meeting.
You like to give Conceptboard a try? Start with our 30-day trial and boost collaboration in your team!