Over the past few years, I had various opportunities to facilitate events, conferences, workshops, meetings, lectures for a large, medium and small groups. I learned by watching first and implementing these learnings. This led me to internalize and advance these learnings. Here are five keys to facilitation
Understand your Target Audience
Understanding your target audience and objective of the meeting is essential to reach any concrete outcomes. Define the goals of the meeting/gathering. defining the purpose and expected outcomes. This is a simple step but enough time should be spent in setting unanimous goals because this step holds significance in the long term.
Writing down these goals is important for clear comprehension and future reference.
Time is Everything
For any meeting, Facilitator plays a significant role to keep the meeting on schedule as per the agenda but in reality, it’s more than that. A facilitator has to be fully present and not only keep a track of time but also track the energy level and vibe of the audience in check. If the sessions are long and boring without any breaks, perhaps it’s a good idea to take an early break. If the discussion has taken an unexpected turn then ensuring to take feedback from the audience whether to dig deep on the topic of park it for later.
Timing is also about ensuring that all voices are heard. That being said, it’s important for a facilitator to encourage the quieter member of the group to speak and share their ideas and thoughts.
While we talk about keeping up with time and agenda, taking feedback helps in understanding if the group dynamics and expectations are being met.
Feedback can be taken at various levels including at the beginning of the session to break the ice and set expectations with either handful or all participants. During the sessions or during small breaks between the sessions to understand the energy levels, interests, pace of the discussion etc. At the end of the session, feedback at this point will help in setting expectations and clearing understanding for future meetings/sessions.
A facilitator acts as a pathway to enhance understanding of a certain topic, create interest and supports in connecting dots between the known and unknown. At this point of shift, a facilitator must respond to all the queries and if time permits offer any future consultations.
To ensure the audience stays engaged, a facilitator must continue to read, explore and understand the new advances about the topics discussed. To enhance the process, a facilitator can follow the process of facilitation using storytelling and experience sharing and likely to keep the audience engaged during and after the session. Additionally, recall capacity and implementation of learning is likely to be much greater.
Future projection is about finding ways for connecting past experiences, implementing learnings, and action steps.
At the end of the session, a facilitator can offer a set of action items that are generalized and the audience can modify these action steps according to the area of implementation/situation. At the end of the session, the shift should be felt and action steps must be owned.
On a personal note, my favorite part of the facilitation is sharing stories and experiences that guided people to get to where they are right now.