Have you been asked to facilitate a meeting, strategy session or group conversation? If you have never facilitated before, here are some questions to ask, that will help you use your time effectively, and reach your objective.
What’s the point?
Reflect on the key objective for your meeting: what do you want to achieve? Write this down. If you have time to go further, think about the objective at different levels: for the organisation, the specific project, participants, and for you personally.
When you know the point of the meeting, you have a much better chance of reaching it.
Can we achieve a secondary outcome?
While many meetings will have something concrete you need to achieve, such as a decision on a report, you can get more bang for your buck by identifying a “soft” outcome, such as “the team knows each other better”.
Your “hard” outcome will help you get things done now; the “soft” outcome will ensure you get it done in the right way.
What is the journey that will allow us to achieve those outcomes?
Once your outcomes are clear, map the flow of the session. Draw on processes like Theory U or World Cafe, or build your own. Allow enough time for people to connect to each other, discuss topics and reflect. Don’t forget time at the end to clarify who will do what once you leave the meeting.
If you can’t do everything you want with the time available, give your participants a task as preparation.
How do I feel personally?
As meeting facilitator, you have a big impact on the result. As well as preparing the content, prepare mentally. Ask yourself how you feel about the session: are you nervous, concerned about results? Are you hoping for one particular outcome? Do you feel comfortable you’ll be able to keep the conversation on track so you finish on time?
Being honest about how you feel and limits of your skills, will help you better handle nerves and challenging situations.
Am I prepared enough to relax and have fun?
The golden rule of facilitation: prepare, prepare, prepare! Once you’ve done that, keep your key outcomes in mind and use your intuition to guide the group where it needs to go.
Facilitation is an art and you will find your own style with practice. Enjoy the process of discovery!