Pack Your Bag – 6 Props for Awesome Meetings


In this video and written blog, I’m going to actually share what I do to get ready for a meeting and take you into my dining room to open up my workshop suitcase. Enjoy the video or just read below to get more ideas.

Every time I get ready for facilitating meetings, I notice nervousness in my body and mind. Today is no exception as I’m getting ready for a meeting. I’ve been with the same group for five times and the agenda is all ready, and yet I still had an interesting, somewhat anxious provoking dream this past night. I also notice that my stomach is nervous and it is not helped by the fact that I also have six days of training coming up starting tomorrow. Nor is it helped by the fact that we have participants coming from Hong Kong, Alaska, Colorado, Arizona, Washington, and California coming to take our training in Oregon. So this is a busy day for me.

I thought I might let you into my life to let you know what it is like to prepare for so many events in a row.

Multiple Events –
How do I prepare for them & myself?

The night before, I make sure that I do a few things to ensure I get a good nights rest. The most important thing is that I have most my preparations done for all events and I feel like I’ve connected with the clients enough to know they’ll be no major surprises for me. I might make sure I don’t watch any violent TV, don’t drink too much coffee or have too much chocolate the day before and do some nice things for myself the night before. For example, last night I had the good fortune of attending my book club of many years. I love the women in this book club and they always make me feel very special. Then when I got home I joined my husband watching The Voice. The Voice, as some of you know is a show about upcoming talented singers coached by expert song performers. I like the way the show has become much more positive in the way that they coach these aspiring singer’s. So I feel good about watching the show and go to bed happy. Then I sleep well.

On the day of the event I make sure I eat a really good breakfast. Something that will sustain me and keep my energy high. I drink lots of water during the day.

I make sure I know what I’m going to wear and I have set out my clothes and established that nothing is stained or wrinkled and will look and feel good when I wear it.

Next, I pull out my suitcase.

So what’s in the suitcase?
And what props are essential?

A very high-quality sturdy suitcase is going to last me for decades. I have bought several over the last few decades. But now I have bought my last suitcase.  It has great four wheels, it tracks easily, it’s small enough that I can carry a lot in it and haul up the stairs if I don’t have access to an elevator. It has inside and outside pockets for storing extra things but generally you can just throw things in there if you need to. It contains everything I need for a training and/or a facilitated event.

1. Sticky Wall – First thing I know I might need a sticky wall because I may be doing some sorting of data that will go easier if I have a sticky wall.

2. Table Cloths – Then I make sure I have some nice props and table clothes to take a dull uninteresting room and make it bright, cheerful, and perhaps even intriguing. I want people, when they come into the room, to feel like I’ve taken some time to really set the room up nicely. See more below about a great centerpiece.

3.  Toys – Other things I include are a variety of toys that I can set on the table for people to fiddle with when they are learning material, hearing a presentation or thinking about something. This works really well for kinesthetic learners.

4. Markers – Next of course, I have things that you probably know about. Really good markers.  See more below about the secrets of markers.

5. Cards and paper – flipchart paper, name tags, things for people to write on such as post it notes or half sheets of paper if you’re using a sticky wall.

6. Noisemakers – I like to have chimes that I ring when I’m calling the small groups back together. Just ring once or twice until you get everyone’s attention and say, “Let’s all come back together and share our ideas.”  You can have them post their ideas where everyone can easily read them and then read them out loud yourself.

Note:  The reason you would have people read their own ideas is to have their voice heard. However, the danger of this is that they may favor their own ideas or certain ideas more than others. The safer thing to do is have you read them out loud.  Even though it means I have to find a way of having their voices heard in other ways. It’s good to have a co-facilitator so it’s not always your voice that is reading out the ideas.

The Secret of Markers

The Colors
We mentioned markers a little bit earlier. I like a variety of colors and I’ve just purchased a brand-new pack, Mr. Sketch.  Keep in mind that yellow, orange, pink and some reds you should only use for highlighting or underlining text.  Because people can’t see those colors from far away, it’s best to avoid them when you’re making your usual notes on the flipchart. Black, brown, blue and green are excellent colors for the every day notes.

My Favorite
Some of my favorite markers are the refillable ones produced by Neuland. Generally I refill my markers prior to an event, but I take a refill bottle  for backup.  You simply squeeze the bulb to allow it to fill with ink, remove the bulb, and then press it into the hole in the bottom of the felt pen and squeeze.  You may get a little ink on yourself the first time as you become used to doing this technique.

Bring A Lot
One of the reasons we like to have a lot of markers is because it’s great to have people write down their own ideas. For example, you might get people into pairs or threes, and then give them a question to share, discuss, or explore together for 2 to 3 minutes. Then give out half sheets of paper or large sticky post-it notes, a marker each and have them write their two best ideas on each paper. This is commonly used in many techniques and especially helpful for the ToP Consensus Workshop Method.

A Meeting Table Space That POPS

The last thing I like to show you is how to set up a really nice looking meeting table space. The beautiful piece of cloth in the video is from my friend Tomtom Horibe from Japan.  When laying out the cloth, I could lay it out flat but it’s also sometimes attractive to put it on an angle or have it just laying in a casual folded way. I might have something as simple as a plate of fruit and vegetables or often I will carry little bags of stones and glass beads with me, have an earth squeeze ball and a few other toys on it. This gives a chance for participants to have some visual intrigue. Sometimes I bring a real or an artificial plant from home. Now, you have a really nice meeting room that allows participants to say to themselves, “This meeting feels different and the room is quite beautiful. I think I might enjoy being in this meeting.”


So I encourage all of you to try to make your meetings a little more interesting – trying techniques such as setting up a room beautifully, having a well-planned agenda, giving people lots of chances to talk in small groups and write their own ideas down, and explore and share as much as possible. There are so many great resources on meetings nowadays, it really doesn’t make any sense for you to have long, boring meetings.

Don’t stop here!

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Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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