Have you been asked to facilitate a meeting, a strategy session or a conversation? If you have never facilitated before, here are some thoughts to help you think about why you are there, and how to use whatever you do to reach the objective.
What’s the point?
Reflect on, and then jot down, the objectives for the session. You can include objectives for the organisation and project, for the participants, and your personal hopes.
When you know the point of the meeting, you have a much better chance of reaching it.
Think tangible and non-tangible
Consider both concrete outputs (such as a decision or a report) and “softer” outcomes (such as “the team understands stakeholders needs”). The tangible output will later prove to people that something happened; the soft outcome will ensure you do that in the right way.
Make sure each outcome has a correlate output and vice versa.
Plot the journey
If you are asked to facilitate an agenda designed by someone else, get a sense of the flow of the session they have planned and how that will lead to the session objectives. Check that you feel comfortable with the material.
If you are asked to design the process, you may like to explore practices like Theory U or World Cafe to help you plan the participant journey. You can also build your own. (I will write more about this in later posts.)
Allow sufficient time in your agenda for people to relate to each other and the subject. Consider how you will bring all the different perspectives of the issue together.
As a meeting facilitator your behaviour and presence can have a big impact on the result. Check in with how you feel about the session – are you nervous, concerned or biased towards one particular outcome? Make a mental note to recognise how these might play out when you are leading the group.
The facilitator is not the expert – in fact, it can help you take a more neutral role if you don’t know everything about the topic.
Conversations can go a billion ways so you can never prepare for every possibility. Keep your key outcomes in mind and use your intuition to guide the group where it needs to go.
Be gentle with yourself. Facilitation is an art and you will find your own style with practice. Enjoy the process of discovery!
Prepare, prepare, prepare – and trust you’ll get to the group to where they need to get to.