How Facilitation Skills Improve Meeting Productivity

Meetings take up a significant amount of time for employees in small and large organizations alike. At some point, employees at every level of the organization will have to attend a meeting with other employees to obtain information, participate in a brainstorming session, or for a number of other reasons. Yet when employees are in these meetings, they are costing the company money. If these meetings are unproductive, they will cost companies even more money because additional meetings will have to be held down the road. In order to have a good meeting, one needs:

  • Goals that are thoroughly explained and understood
  • A defined strategy for reaching these goals
  • Employees committed to arriving to the meeting prepared and ready to participate
  • A feeling among participants that their thoughts and ideas are valued

When a meeting lacks the qualities outlined above, it will be unsuccessful and the company will need to hold additional meetings. One way to ensure that these qualities are present is by putting an individual with facilitation skills in charge of the meeting. Since many organizations do not provide meetings training for employees, they usually end up having to hire someone from outside the organization to properly plan and run the organizational gathering. Hiring an individual with facilitation skills will prove beneficial before, during, and after the meeting.

Before the Meeting

The hired facilitator begins by meeting with organizational leaders in order to gain background information including specifics about the company, its industry, its goals, and its employees. This individual will also make sure to ask about the purpose of the meeting so that he or she can set goals for what the gathering should accomplish. This is the time when organizational leaders should inform the individual with facilitation skills about all known personality conflicts within the organization, so he or she can address these during the gathering. Once preliminary research is complete, he or she will type up a summary of this information and distribute it to participants before the meeting begins.

During the Meeting

Facilitators effectively oversee the meeting and make sure that all organizational goals for the meeting are met thanks to knowledge acquired through meeting training. He or she encourages member participation by asking questions to spur discussion and by helping shy employees to come out of their shells. Once everyone has had a chance to speak, the facilitator will use facilitation skills to help the group reach a consensus on which every team member has agreed.

Following the Meeting

When an individual with facilitation skills is put in charge, the meeting will be run so smoothly that fewer meetings are necessary in the future. In fact, the facilitator will ask members of each department whether they understand their role in reaching the organization’s objectives. By giving everyone a chance to ask questions before work begins, the organization is able to keep everyone on the same page.

Once an organization is ready to hire an individual with facilitation skills, it should check an online database of facilitators. Ideally, the company should find a facilitator who has completed meetings training.

Strategy Facilitator: Align Organizational Thinking

Organizations hold meetings for a number of different reasons. Whether the organization is looking to tackle a major problem or wishes to focus on new objectives, meetings are a great way to get everyone within the organization on the same page. Yet businesses might find that if the meeting is not lead effectively, it will be inefficient and ultimately ineffective. While companies might be tempted to put an organizational leader in charge of a gathering, it is better if they hire a facilitation expert. Depending on the company’s need, experts can be found that specialize in a number of areas, like a teambuilding facilitator or a strategy facilitator.

What do these experts offer?

Facilitation experts provide support before and during the meeting.

How do they prepare before meetings?

Prior to the meeting, these professionals will research the company and the problems it hopes to address by interviewing the organization’s leaders. When a teambuilding facilitator is brought in, he or she might sit down with members of the group individually to try to learn if personality conflicts or biases are holding back productivity. Similarly, a strategy facilitator could meet with organizational leaders to understand the current strategy and how it aligns with the company’s goals. Using the information collected from interviews and independent research, the professional will prepare a comprehensive report that participants will receive before the day of the discussion. With this information, everyone will be on the same page and the facilitator will not have to worry about working with a group in which nobody can see the big picture.

What is their role during the meetings?

These professionals are primarily in charge of leading the discussion. The big reason that internal employees should not handle this task is because they might bring their own biases into the room. Internal employees might allow certain individuals to dominate the conversation and might even put down or reject certain ideas before others have had a chance to respond to them. Consequently, potential solutions are never considered and individuals will even become reluctant to speak up. The facilitator will use a previously prepared agenda to make sure that certain topics or questions are covered, and will direct the discussion back on-topic if the group goes off on a tangent.

The above-mentioned are general duties covered as some facilitators will handle specific tasks, depending on the type of meeting. A strategy facilitator will have to make sure that a consensus is reached when the team thinks that it has determined a strategic direction to follow. He or she must also ensure that all team members understand their role in helping the organization reach its goals. A teambuilding facilitator will teach and lead exercises or games that companies can use to develop teambuilding skills. This individual might also have to settle personality conflicts, usually by addressing the problem rather than the personalities.

To find a strategy facilitator or teambuilding facilitator that will help the company reach its goals, organizational leaders should consult an online database to find individuals with the right mix of training and experience from similar companies.

Facilitators Maximize Discussion Productivity

Corporate retreats, often situated in exotic locales, can be a lot of fun for employees. Yet corporations should also make sure to maximize the benefits that are available when so many members of the organization are together in one place. Whether meeting to address a specific problem and brainstorm a solution, or simply to work on team building and group facilitation, a lot of good can come from a corporate gathering. Yet businesses should be careful. Having too many people together in one place, all with varying interests and views can sometimes hinder the flow of ideas. For a company to get the most out of the gathering, it should strongly consider bringing in an outsider to help with company discussions. Doing so will boost the productivity of any kind of meeting, as the professional hired will usually possess unique skills, experience and training that allow them to do more than someone within the organization could. So, what kinds of services can a facilitator provide?

Team Building Services

One great offering is team-building services, which target unseen issues related to the group’s dynamics. Using the three-level approach by Leadership Strategies, these professionals will work to uncover dysfunctional behavior and a lack of trust among employees. Additionally, they will be on the lookout for poor communication and an inability to address disagreements. These certified professionals will not only diagnose these issues but will also help to remedy them, by giving everyone a chance to speak and by mediating and resolving conflicts without allowing them to take over the event.

Strategic Planning

Events devoted to strategic planning will also benefit from the addition of an outside professional. These experts will do research prior to the event to diagnose the problem and gain a better understanding of each participant’s interests. During the event, they will make sure that each participant has the opportunity to speak so that a genuine consensus is reached. Then the discussion will shift to defining achievable objectives and writing down a detailed plan for how these objectives will be reached. Since this individual comes from outside of the company, they will bring no personal bias or interests to the table.

Conference Planning

These experts will not only be helpful during an event, but can also aid in conference planning. Their experience means that they have attended a number of these events in the past, and thus understand what elements allow these events to be successful. They will focus on balancing the amount of time devoted to discussions, guest speakers and audience engagement to make sure that everyone benefits from the event.

These are just some of the many meeting facilitation options that a company will have. For more information, executives should find a service that matches these professionals with interested companies. These types of services will typically offer many options for type of service, and can customize a solution based on pricing concerns or the level of experience desired.

Meeting Facilitation Is More Effective If Leaders Have Been Properly Trained

Organizations are run differently, depending on how big the organization is, how long it has been around, and in which industry it operates. One of the few things these organizations do is hold meetings. A meeting might be called to share information with everyone at once or to brainstorm a new strategic direction. However, if the meeting is not run effectively then the company will have to call another meeting and get stuck in a continuous cycle of holding meetings until objectives are met. Many organizations commit to making sure a meeting is held correctly the first time by bringing in a meeting facilitation expert from outside the organization. Other companies prefer to save money by appointing someone from within the organization to lead the meeting. If that individual has never completed a facilitation training course or been properly trained in the art of leading meetings, then the only thing that a meeting will do is waste everyone’s time.

Designating an individual within the organization to be in charge of meeting facilitation will make it easier for the organization to achieve the objectives it lays out for that specific gathering. A facilitator is someone who leads a discussion by conducting research and developing a plan leading up to the meeting. This individual will interview staff members to determine what they want the meeting to accomplish, and might even write questions that can be asked to spur discussion among participants. A facilitation training course will help the individual with this research phase by suggesting ways to conduct research and obtain necessary information from organizational leaders. During this time, organizational leaders should also mention specific topics that need to be addressed or ideas that need to be debated and put to a vote. Once the facilitator has completed all preliminary research, he or she will create an agenda that he or she can refer to during the discussion.

When the meeting starts, the meeting facilitation professional will oversee the conversation to ensure that everyone is given a chance to speak. This is accomplished by making sure that each individual is treated equally, and that no ideas are dismissed without a discussion among the group. The discussion leader can also rely on techniques learned from a facilitation training course in order to bring shy participants out of their shells or to break the ice if the group seems reluctant to engage in a discussion. A facilitation training course will also teach the individual how to lead games and exercises designed to help everyone loosen up or start thinking creatively. The professional will even ensure that the meeting is productive by not dismissing everyone until a consensus has been reached. He or she will also give others the chance to ask questions, so that department heads or individual employees understand what they need to do in order to guarantee that the organization meets its goals.

Sending an individual to a facilitation training course is the best way to ensure that he or she is capable of effectively completing meeting facilitation.