Let’s start with what’s important, shall we?  What is facilitation, really? What’s the big fuss about?

Facilitation as I define it, is...

"the designing of meaningful and engaging processes that guide a group of people (2 or more! unless you like to facilitate yourself) from point A to point B to point often unknown. Why unknown? Because you want to inspire the group to co-create the outcomes with you."

If you already know the outcome, then you don’t need a meeting! Regardless of the type or purpose of the gathering, when you need to pool ideas and opinions together towards a decision or next steps, someone has to shape and guide the process of working together so that you can accomplish what you've set out to do, in the best way possible. 

Did you know facilitating a meeting is not the same as “chairing” a meeting?

A chairperson is usually focused on what gets achieved, whereas a facilitator focuses on the how. So, we can say that not all chairpeople are great facilitators. However, they can be, if they follow key steps a facilitator does to engage dynamic dialogue and contributions from everyone! 

So, why facilitate?

I shared on my website’s Facilitation page what I thought were some rather outrageous stats. It is reported that 9 out of 10 people daydream in meetings. 50% of people find meetings to be unproductive. 73% of employees do other work during meetings! And 75% of people have had no formal training in how to conduct a meeting. Worse is that executives average 23 hours per week in meetings, where they report about 8 hours of those are unnecessary or poorly run (equals over 2 months per year wasted!).

I love this Ted talk by David Grady who does a phenomenal job talking about the epidemic of poorly run meetings and all of us accepting to attend them- “mindlessly”. No más (no more!) he says to bad meetings!

Great facilitators know that the design process engages participants way before the meeting begins. I will share with you the most important tip to start on the right foot.

The # 1 RULE to a great start is: The Invitation!

As a facilitator, it is important to recognize the impact and impression your invitation leaves. It can be as important as the meeting itself because it will either invite people in with an open, interested or even excited attitude, or it will make them sigh in distress for another meeting to add into their already busy schedule. Make sure you set the tone for the meeting by CLARIFYING THE PURPOSE – the WHY - of the meeting you are inviting others to be a part of. This is a dealbreaker. I was taught the concept of an "irresistible invitation", one that pulls the right people in meaningfully, purpose-fully, and makes them feel so special they simply can't say no! Let's try creating "irresistible invitations" more often than not! 

Last thoughts to leave you with are that facilitation skills are useful beyond just meetings, boardrooms and conferences- they are key for planning; for "growing" new leaders; for resolving conflicts; and for keeping good communication in any organization and for any team (and even on a personal level within your relationships!).

Let's tap into collective wisdom: Here's an observation activity for you. How do you usually react to meeting announcements or invitations within your organisation, or groups you volunteer or work with? Why? Comment below and let me know what you observe. 

Next up, I’ll share you in on some of the magic sauce for designing and facilitating beyond the norm!