Facilitation: Tips for successful sessions

Here at Articulous we facilitate a LOT of meetings and workshops. Thankfully we love doing this, especially when the content is complex or contentious. We have been tweeting a selection of our favourite twenty-one tips for making sure that your facilitation session runs as smoothly as possible, especially when using an external facilitator with a number of external participants.

  1. Brief facilitator on all meeting attendees in advance including project role and previous interactions as relevant to project.  Facilitator can then research attendees via LinkedIn to speed up recognition with a large group.
  2. Brief external facilitator on any hot button issues which may be potential sources of conflict;
  3. Provide up to date agenda the day before with up to date list of attendees, avoiding acronyms for job title or organisation.
  4. Appoint a project lead for your conversation who leads conversation, answers questions and directs questions to other staff as appropriate.
  5. Get your team to meet prior to clarify approach, recent relevant interactions and any negotiables/non-negotiables.
  6. Meet your facilitator at least 15 mins prior to meeting to allow time to sign in, get to the meeting room and brief them on any last-minute changes or updates.
  7. Book the meeting room for at least 15 mins prior to meeting start to allow for set up.
  8. Book the meeting room for 30 mins post scheduled meeting time to allow for a debrief with your team members.
  9. Book a meeting room that is larger than needed for anticipated number of guests.  Allow space for facilitator to move around if they want.
  10. Ensure aircon is working and adequate prior to meeting – especially with west facing glass in the afternoons.
  11. Ask external guests to arrive with plenty of time to sign in and get up to meeting room;
  12. Ensure in advance all attendees can attend meeting for entire meeting time.  Reconfigure the agenda if you need to.
  13. Clarify in advance who is taking minutes and what format/level of detail is required along with ETA for their distribution.
  14. Arrange for constant internet access no matter if you plan to use it or not.  Chances are you will!
  15. Coordinate seating so that attendees are not seated in an us vs them or internals vs externals layout.
  16. Start with introductions including names, roles and reason for attending.  Do not assume that everyone knows each other and was involved in any previous meetings.
  17. Organise for pre-nominated representatives of each group in attendance to briefly outline their position or provide an update before any negotiations or discussion begins.
  18. Distribute and go through previous minutes or a brief outline of previous meeting and reason for this meeting so that all attendees have clarity of purpose for current meeting.
  19. Give a clear indication for meeting finish time at the start of the meeting.
  20. Bring a laser pointer to indicate what is being discussed on the screen – especially if complex technical information is being discussed.
  21. Try your upmost to end on time and thank everyone for their participation to encourage them to attend next time.