5 years ago the word “facilitation” did not exist in my vocabulary. I still remember my first retrospective. My coach was in the room with me, reassuring me that it was OK not to “run” the meeting and that, believe it or not, facilitating active participation was a waaaaaay better idea than a group of disengaged, disinterested folks sitting around a table for 60 minutes while one person tries to drive home their agenda (spoiler alert: that person was usually me as I had the luxurious position of “team leader”). Skipping to the end, he was right. The session was engaging and genuine conversation was had. What I’ve learnt about facilitation since that day could fill a book (or several), and many far more skilled facilitators than I have already been there and done that (check out literally anything by Lynne Cazaly for example. That woman is a stone cold facilitation genius). As these rock stars of facilitation already have this covered, I thought I’d sum up the top 3 things I’ve learnt that I wish I’d known 5 years ago. If you’re just starting out, or you want to shake things up, keeping these tips in mind will send you down the road of success… So, without further ado. Here are my 3 top tips for levelling up your meeting facilitation…
1. Figure Out The Point of the Meeting
This may be the most important thing you ever do. Before you facilitate a meeting, event, workshop, hui, shindig, etc, KNOW WHY IT IS HAPPENING.
If you don’t know, find out from the folks who asked for it.
If you can’t find out because no-one knows, maybe you don’t need to facilitate anything at all… Maybe, you can gift everyone their time back.
If you do discover that there’s a purpose and a desired outcome, take those babies and apply tip #2
2. POWER Start That Mamma Jamma!
You’ve done your homework. You know you’re all there for a damn good reason. Last thing you want now is an opener akin to being gently slapped with a wet lettuce… How do you avoid this and engage the participants?
BOOM, POWER start!
In 2 mins or less cover off the following:
Purpose – Why are we here?
Outcome – What are we aiming to achieve
WIIFM (What’s in it for me) – What’s the value for the folks in the room?
Engage – Draw those fine folks in. Help switch their brains to collaboration mode and get their butts off their seats.
Roles – Explain who’s doing what during the next 30 mins, hour, 3 days, or whatever precious amount of time you have together.
3. If its about you, you’re not facilitating!
Come in close, real close… and maybe sit down… I have some news… Ready…?
When you are the facilitator, it’s not about you.
And it’s not about getting your point across or steering folks to your personal preconceived outcome. Put that stuff in an email, or just present your idea in a conversation. Don’t try to “facilitate” people to where you want them.
I know, I know, it’s tough. Believe me, I’m a peacock personality with feathers for days, I love a bit of the spotlight. I’m also a recovering team leader, who always had to have “the plan” that the team followed… BUT facilitation is an act of servant leadership, and no matter how beautifully you can strut your stuff, or how elegant your masterplan is, it will never be as exquisite as holding the space for a group of brilliant humans to shine and problem solve. Trust me.
Bonus Pro-Tip: But I Want To Be Involved!
Maybe you’re thinking “but I have skin in the game, so I want to be involved” or “it’s my meeting so I need to add my input”? Whelp, you know what? That’s actually perfectly fine. Just don’t facilitate it yourself. Finding someone else to facilitate the session allows you to focus and completely participate with the rest of the attendees. (*Shameless plug* If you’re in my area and in need of an impartial facilitator, why not drop me a line?)
So there you have it.
Facilitate valuable sessions, POWER through the start and hold that space for other brilliant humans.
Those are my top tips for levelling up your facilitation. What are yours? Let me know in the comments…