Meeting Facilitator – Now Performing As Director – Conductor – Coach and Choreographer

Imagine an orchestra without a conductor; the strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion all reading the music on their own could result cacophony instead of symphony.  What if The Producers had no director or choreographer; those little old ladies would be knocking each other over with their walkers.  A football team without a playbook would be little more than a sandlot game.

The same holds true for a planning meeting without a facilitator. We’ve all sat through countless meetings that went nowhere. Even with an agenda and knowing essentially what you want to get out of the meeting, it often takes a skilled facilitator to get everyone participating, keeping them civil and driving the discussion to a clear result.

The facilitator is more than just a meeting guide.  Much like the orchestra conductor, a theater director/choreographer or football coach, it is their responsibility to plan, run and bring the meeting to a clear conclusion.

It is not the facilitator’s job to solve problems or to push their own agenda (no matter how well-disguised).

It is the facilitator’s job to simply allow people in the group to work through their thoughts and feelings through the process of discussion by actively listening and creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable participating.

So what should you expect from a good facilitator?  Here are the 8 qualities and skills that a good facilitator must use to extract the best ideas and thoughts from even the most reluctant participants: 

  1. Knowledgeable researcher: Before the meeting starts, the facilitator gathers as much information as possible to ensure they understand the topic enough to guide the exploration of issues, ideas and thoughts. Often the facilitator will request to interview key participants to uncover any potential issues or information that could help to keep the discussion productive.
  2. Objective, patient listener: Generally, the less connected the facilitator is to the participants, the better; making it easier to ensure that every one is heard equally.  It is the facilitator’s job to make sure that all participants feel comfortable participating, and to encourage everyone to engage in the discussion. Perhaps the greatest skill of a facilitator is an ability to patiently listen to sometimes rambling ideas or thoughts and then capturing them clearly, without losing the emotion or intent. It can be hard to not turn one person’s thought into what you think it should be rather than what they meant it to be. 
  3. Organized choreographer: The facilitator either prepares the agenda for the meeting or works with the meeting sponsor to outline areas to be covered. Then, it is the facilitator’s job to keep everyone on track and to document the discussion as it unfolds.  Using whiteboards or flip charts, the facilitator often papers the meeting room walls with the notes, charts and ideas, regularly tracking all of it back to the original agenda.
  4. Focused conductor: Any creative discussion will naturally wander. It’s on these detours that the best ideas often emerge. While the agenda may not be followed in order, the facilitator always knows the way back. They can quickly adapt and encourage a creative discussion, ensuring that everyone gets their say. Then document the ideas or issues as they guide the discussion back on topic.
  5. Devil’s advocate: In every meeting there is at least one elephant in the room; that question or issue that no one wants to mention. This is where pre-meeting interviews and topic research help a facilitator become aware of these issues so they can safely and subtly bring them forward for discussion. They can also push back on ideas with flip side thoughts that can encourage broader, more creative discussion.
  6. Coach and mediator:  Every group has different dynamics, with standout and reluctant participants. If executives are part of the group, they can sometimes inhibit open participation. The facilitator must break down barriers with humor, insights and direct questions. If confrontations or arguments do erupt, the facilitator must quickly regain control, make sure both sides are heard, and then get everyone back on track.
  7. Face and body language reader:  It takes practice and sensitivity to notice the silent signals when people become unhappy, angry, distracted or upset. A good facilitator listens for what is not said and finds ways to engage these people in a positive and supportive way.
  8. Great closer: Tying is all together at the end and making sure there are no issues hanging, nothing left unsaid, and no one feeling left out is perhaps the most critical skill of a facilitator. Recapping the topic by running quickly across the wall charts, then outlining next steps and any assignments gets everyone on the same page to move forward.

Think about bringing in a skilled facilitator to orchestrate your next critical meeting. The results can be amazing and the process can be much more fun than you imagine when you get to sit back and participate. 

Meeting Facilitation: The Aspects of Becoming Successful

In business, facilitation refers to the successful running of a productive and impartial meeting, without leading or distracting the group from the main goal. Facilitators aid in meetings that involve a decision, finding a solution to a problem, and in the exchange of ideas for discussion.

Meetings are the perfect avenue to do find resolutions as they are where people come together to work on a common goal. Good and effective meetings include: a) one goal that everyone is familiar with. b) A plan to reach those goals. c) Understanding that everyone comes from different backgrounds, therefore, opinions and points of view will vary. d) A sense of responsibility and involvement with the company and one another.

One single and simple way to achieve a successful meeting does not exist. Building synergy usually comes with experience and cooperation from the group. The more people are aware of good group dynamics, the easier the job of the facilitator, and the more productive the end result.

Some of the aspects of facilitation include the following:

The role of the facilitator – Their task is likened to that of a mediator, who helps out in the process during a grievance, but not involved with what occurred before and what happens after. These are individuals who assist groups of people to effectively reach a goal and work diligently toward accomplishing that goal. They do not take sides or express their points of view, allowing the floor to discuss among themselves.

Consulting with the client – A third-party individual affiliated with another company may seek out the help of the facilitator. This usually involves business deals that include both companies to work together towards a common resolution. The facilitators will be able to understand the purpose and the best expected outcome.

Making arrangements – The meetings are to be arranged and managed by the facilitator. This involves the location to be approved by the participants and the acceptance of the invitation by those needed to be in attendance. This aspect involves researching for background information regarding why the meeting is being held in the first place.

Setting the agenda – In compliance with the previous aspect, this field also involves understanding in detail how each goal can be reached and how long it could take. With enough experience and practice, facilitators explain to the participants the issues and each possible course of action.

Understanding group norms and dynamics – Given that everyone comes from a different department, culture, and background, having enough knowledge on group dynamics can help the overall flow of the discussion and the productivity of the team. Facilitators should not make assumptions, but rather adapt to the differences. They should also be aware of the body language of each participant, and make sure everyone is comfortable.

All of these aspects make up sound and effective facilitation, with improvement noticeable in following meetings. At the conclusion of each gathering, everyone should have a sense of what to expect at the next showing. It is also critical for the facilitators to ask the group what they believe should happen next.

How to Increase Personal Productivity While Working Online

Since the majority of online entrepreneurs work alone on the internet their success is dependent upon their own personal productivity. Most people starting an online business normally have a small budget to work with so it is up to them to do it all. Therefore increasing productivity is critical for the majority of people when marketing on the internet.

Let’s look at 5 different ways in which online entrepreneurs can save time and energy while increasing productivity.

Leverage Your Own Efforts

Learning to ‘multi-purpose’ previous articles, sales copy or blog post can save you a lot of time and effort. Take some of your older blog post and use them as outlines for new articles you can submit. Along the same lines by scaling down some of your older articles you can use them as blog posts. These are great ways for increasing productivity without much additional effort.

Do not discard any old sales copy but instead use it as a ‘template’ that you can put back to work for any other product or project that may be applicable.

Walk Away When Feeling Unproductive

Ever have those days when you find yourself just staring at the computer screen? When this occurs learn to simply turnoff the computer and go do something else. There is not much sense to wasting time on something you are not being productive. Instead go find something you can accomplish or if nothing more take a ‘breather’ and let your ‘batteries’ recharge until you are feeling more productive.

Unplug for a Change

Purposely take time away from your computer screen when you can. For instance if you can do with a pen and paper what you are doing on your computer than choose to work offline for a while. Things such as drawing out a weekly plan, article outlines or even ideas for a blog post can be done away from the computer.

Getting away from your computer screen will serve a couple of purposes. It will give you a refreshing change of scenario while also allowing your eyes some much needed rest from the computer screen.

Limit Your Computer Time

Set time limits on your computer use. By doing this you will find that you work more efficiently and productively. Setting time limits makes you more aware of what needs to be done and how to do it in the quickest way.
Time limits also help you to stop non-productive behavior such as aimless browsing, game playing or email checking.

Encourage More Participation on Blog

If you have a blog, as most marketing on the internet do, you want to encourage your readers to leave more comments. By increasing reader participation there is a stronger sense of community at the blog and this is something readers enjoy. Also and just as important these comments can also give you new ideas for content or making improvements.

Your personal productivity plays a key factor in the success you will have when marketing on the internet. It is typical for most when starting an online business to be the ‘sole’ employee therefore time and productivity are important variables. The 5 tips we discussed here today are aimed at increasing productivity by saving time and getting more out of your own effort. By following the ideas these tips represent you stand to experience less personal stress and better business results for less time invested.