Spoofs and satires on TV documentaries highlight (often hilariously) the mainstream news’ preference to have ‘talent’ in front of the camera. ‘Talent’ is someone who gives the appearance of knowing the subject, and who has the charisma and enough good looks to present themselves and their ‘insights’ confidently.

But parachuting a celebrity in to facilitate specific outcomes at a community or stakeholder event will often be much harder than having a TV audience in their thousands or millions.  Their celebrity status doesn’t mean they’re across the issues and it can soon be obvious they have no imprimatur or expertise in the matter. They may have their fair share of corporate MC gigs under their belt, but it’s much more difficult to command a room, empathise, debate, discern, and facilitate meaningful discussions and outcomes from disparate views.

Relying on the pulling power of a celebrity might get a few more bums on seats, but a failure to effectively carry out the role of facilitator (esp. in controversial or complex circumstances) is an effective way to have your audience leaving in a worse mood than when they arrived. They’ll talk about the celebrity with the microphone, and not your project, or your community initiative.

A good facilitator will work with you and your team to:

–        Prepare an event agenda with activities that are designed to meet your specific objectives

–        Enable participants to build rapport and trust

–        Sequence activities so there’s a logic and rationale that participants get

–        Plan to deliver on rational objectives (the outcomes you want) and emotive or relational objectives (how the participants feel)

–        Poke and prod participants for better thinking and outcomes

–        Build an engagement event that brings out the best in people – most clients are surprised at just how insightful the community can be if the right atmosphere, setting and critical thinking activities are built into activities

If you’re going to the trouble of getting the right people in the room or getting the good citizens in your community to give up their time on a matter of great import to you, then use professionals who know how to listen, how to present your initiative, and how to engage your audience.

(Image: Sketch by Paul Klee)