Should You Hire a Facilitator?
The answer depends upon the complexity of the meeting.
Typical meetings – general information is presented, exchanged and discussed followed by straight-forward decision making – rarely need a formal facilitator.
More elaborate meetings have different issues: an agenda with multiple and inter-related topics; opposing or contradictory points-of-view; balanced (but limited) time for discussion and debate, often involving persuasion or negotiation; and complex decision-marketing.
Sometimes a senior executive will try to facilitate these high-level meetings. Generally, they shouldn’t, if for no other reason to ensure they don’t negatively influence key attendees or dominate the outcome.
Instead, a neutral facilitator can be an invaluable asset because he/she allows everyone to focus their time spent at the meeting, such as:
- Actively participating in discussions, debates, or idea generation
- Listening and encouraging strategies, concepts and ideas
- Clarifying the purpose and direction of the meeting or brainstorm
- Helping the group come to a just decision
At the same time, facilitators can perform tasks which minimize distractions and coordinate meeting logistics which should remain in the background. Again, this allows the participants to focus. A good, flexible facilitator should:
- Focus the group in positive ways on the problem, issue or need
- Create an no-risk atmosphere, including freedom of speech and dissension
- Ensure everyone contributes in their own way, particularly to balance extroverted participants with introverted ones, or to engage less-than-attentive people to the conversation and debate
- Inspire all participants to generate ideas across a full spectrum
- Introduce and conduct brainstorm exercises
- Keep the group – and individuals – energized
- Minimize negativity, criticism and distractions
- Act as the secretary, writing down ideas on flipcharts
- Keep an eye on the clock
- Never sit down
- Never give up the pen
Please contact me by e-mail if you have any questions about workshop facilitation, or would like to talk about how I might help facilitate your next meeting.