what does a facilitator in a meeting

Group meetings and discussions are a central part of any business. Making sure that they are optimally engaging and productive takes a distinct set of skills. Unfortunately, even the most talented executives and leaders lack what it takes to make the most of this organized time. As a result, employees see meetings as unnecessary interruptions in an otherwise productive workday, and leaders perceive a lack of investment and focus from those employees. It’s not a great cycle.

The good news is that transforming ineffective meetings and other group sessions into productive, outcome-driven time is neither a secret nor prohibitively difficult. All you really need is a professional facilitator who employs a sound methodology and techniques. Perhaps the hardest step is letting go of the idea that an agenda and goal are enough to ensure the success of the meeting. By involving a facilitator, you move from planning and hoping for a productive session to knowing that your time will be free of distraction and dysfunction, that you’ll enjoy higher meeting productivity, and that your group will reach meaningful decisions more efficiently and effectively.


Understanding the Facilitator’s Methodology

A facilitated session is highly structured. Using a key set of procedures and techniques, the session leader (a professional facilitator) guides participants. This is more than an agenda. It is a series of pre-defined steps toward a result that all participants understand and accept. The clear framework enables the facilitator to accomplish six principal objectives:

  1. Spark (and keep) participants’ attention.
    As the saying goes, first impressions are everything. If the meeting doesn’t start off with the best foot forward, you will have a hard time capturing (and keeping) attention. A professional facilitator will bring advanced presentation skills to bear from the very first moment to engross the attendees and build continued participation.
  2. Keep participants focused and on track.
    Even with the best intentions, it’s simple for meetings to veer off track. Wasted time and energy create frustration and burnout, which can spell trouble for the health of your business. A professional facilitator will keep participants focused on priority issues, mitigating distractions, and reminding them of the target outcome.
  3. Defuse tension and address potential conflicts as they arise.
    Team members want to feel like their interests and concerns are heard and processed. When that doesn’t happen, the environment can become hostile. Because they are an impartial third party, a facilitator can act objectively and maintain a respectful dialog.
  4. Foster participants’ comfort.
    It’s important that employees feel comfortable to express their opinions and thoughts in any meeting. This free sharing of ideas helps drive productive discussions, which in turn aids in reaching meaningful decisions. A facilitator can help structure and conduct your meeting to ensure that it remains mutually respectful.
  5. Tailor the meeting style to the participants.
    Every team is different, and what works for one team may not work for the next. A professional facilitator has an arsenal of different learning tools to make each unique meeting experience as effective as possible for participants in any environment.
  6. Build consensus and commitment among the team.
    Perhaps the most important measure of your meeting’s effectiveness is whether or not it has achieved a meaningful outcome. When participants can share a sense of consensus and commitment to the chosen decisions and direction, they are more energized and engaged towards realizing the shared vision.

Find out more about exactly what a professional facilitator can add to make your business meetings more productive and positive in the free eBook 10 Principles of Facilitation, available from our colleagues at Leadership Strategies. And as always, our team is available to help you prepare for and ensure successful group sessions and related outcomes. Contact us, chat us, or call us at 1-877-212-2361.