A Facilitator Can Make or Break Your Event

How to Choose the Right One

If your planning meetings aren’t getting the results you need, it may be time to bring in a facilitator. Facilitators can be key to the planning phase of any business meeting or retreat, as they allow business leaders to participate more fully in the process without being bogged down by agendas and flow. The main purpose of a facilitator is to provide neutral guidance and keep a group moving towards an objective so that all employees, including executives, can concentrate on the task at hand.

What Do You Need?

Facilitator, communicator and advisor Sheila Beauchemin says the first question a great facilitator should ask a potential client is, “What do you need to walk away with, to feel like the event or meeting was a success for you?”   

“The event should never be about the facilitator but about achieving the results the client needs. This means in early conversations, look for a focus on learning about your organization, why you are holding the event, and what you hope to achieve,” she says. “Avoid those who immediately jump to selling you a packaged process before they even understand your goals.”

Beauchemin says good facilitators are flexible, creative and adept at drawing out the group’s wisdom. They should walk into a room with a belief in the group’s ability to make progress and a zen-like focus on preserving space for the collective voices to be heard.

Good facilitators should walk into the room with a belief in the group’s ability to make progress and a zen-like focus on preserving space for the collective voices to be heard.

By doing the prep work and research ahead of time, a facilitator can keep a clear focus on the meeting or workshop’s goals, and their expertise can shape agendas so that minimal time is wasted and the goals achieved in a timely manner.

An Inclusive Approach

In group facilitation, facilitators can help manage competing conversations and prevent a “takeover” by the more verbal players in the room. They are also skilled at drawing solutions from all participants, ensuring everyone is contributing to the process.

To find the right facilitator for your workshop, make sure they understand not just your sector, but your individual business, including your company culture. Provide ample time ahead of your meeting or retreat for your facilitator to do the research appropriate for the job. If a facilitator promises results and only does minimal prep before an event, be wary — a minimum 14-day lead time is average for a facilitator to properly lay the groundwork. As with any hire, checking references is critical to hiring the right person — don’t be afraid to cold call other companies to ask for insights and inquire whether or not they would use that facilitator again.

This article is from the October/November 2018 issue of Douglas