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Meeting Facilitation

Meeting facilitators ensure participation and engagement

Meeting Facilitation

Facilitating a meeting – whether it be a strategic planning session, a board meeting, a leadership retreat, or other critical gathering – involves much more than just staying on topic. In fact, some times, it is about knowing when being off topic is appropriate. (See our 15 Rules of Meeting Facilitation)

What a Facilitator Is (or Should Be):

  • Before the Meeting
    • A partner for choosing the right venue, time and even type of meeting for your purposes
    • An unbiased voice to help choose the right stakeholders to invite
    • A sounding board for topics to include on the agenda and to maximize the flow of subject matter
    • An experienced resource with various approaches, activities and thought-provoking input for each agenda item
  • During the Meeting
    • A master at making participants comfortable with the meeting agenda and ready to contribute
    • A virtuoso at preventing interpersonal conflict while managing positive conflicting opinions
    • An ace in breaking through groupthink to get at new and undeveloped opinions and insight
    • A professional who traces discussion patterns and draws from participants rational conclusions from initial ideas
    • A guru at documenting the progression of thought to help participants with flow of reasoning
  • After the Meeting
    • A maestro of assembling key discussion points to include with decisions in well-organized report
    • An expert in perceiving and messaging nuanced and relevant issues from the formal and informal conversations
    • A champion of persistence who ensures that follow up, follow through, and continuity of action become part of the culture

What a Facilitator Is Not (or Shouldn’t Be):

  • A team member: he or she will have too much bias, be too much a part of the organizational structure and have too much respect (or fear) to question authority
  • A board or leadership team member: he or she will either have no opportunity to get involved creatively in the discussions or he or she may take over the agenda and push it toward his or her own goals
  • A president or executive director: no one participating, save perhaps the board chair, will question the suggestions or recommendations of the leader in charge of the meeting, effectively shutting down strategic and creative thinking
  • A last-minute decision: ideally, the facilitator should be involved from very early on in the planning process in order to provide input, guidance and recommendations on everything mentioned in the “Before the Meeting” above
  • A volunteer (in most cases): most volunteer facilitators tend to see their role as the meeting emcee and feel less obligated to be involved throughout the planning and reporting processes
  • A cost-saving budget item: with the salaries, venue rental and possibly travel expenses involved, the last thing you want to do is for the face of your meeting (the facilitator) to be inexperienced, ill-prepared and even uncomfortable working with your team
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