Meetings are called for a reason. But sometimes people feel that meetings
are off track, not worth their time and without purpose. Meeting facilitators
make sure the meeting has a positive, useful outcome. They help give meetings
a good name.
Meeting facilitators are hired to work with a company or an organization
for a specific amount of time. The contract will outline what this time period
is. It could be one meeting or a series of meetings over several months.
Facilitators have an objective point of view. They can help people work
through their feelings, get their point across and achieve a positive outcome.
Depending on the contract, they may also be in charge of setting up the
meeting location and developing an agenda, with input from the organization.
In some cases, the facilitator actually works for the company and has meeting
facilitation as one of their duties.
Meeting facilitation takes a variety of skills and abilities. Courses in
facilitation, adult education, human development, psychology, sociology, mediation
and group dynamics are all useful.
Most facilitators have a variety of experiences. They offer the services
that relate to their strong points. Starting a business in this area requires
you to look at what your strengths are.
The most useful type of promotion in this field is word of mouth. If a
meeting facilitator helps a company save time and money, other people will
definitely hear about it.
Ray Render is a meeting facilitator. "I chose this career path because
I have great people and organizational skills, a powerful voice and a strong
sense of urgency to complete a task in a timely manner. The art of facilitation
requires strong people skills, as many types of people are usually involved
in a meeting," he says.
"[People with] various educational levels are also present and the facilitator
must be able to extract what each participant is truly wanting to convey to
the group and then summarize these comments in an orderly way.
"A facilitator must be strong enough to maintain constant control of a
meeting and be constantly aware of the time available to complete the meeting
objective. Having a powerful voice, regardless of the amount of amplification,
is definitely helpful to keep a large number of people heading in the same
direction to complete this objective."
Render loves his job because he gets to meet people from all walks of life,
from all over the world, and with a variety of work experience and education.
"From these many different people, I try to learn something each time I have
the chance to be a meeting facilitator. And the lesson learned is usually
from some participant's life story," he says.
"I'm a people person and love to be in front of large groups of people
having dialog with them. So working with a group to achieve a common goal
is very natural for me and I love doing it."
Leonore Clauss is also a self-employed meeting facilitator who loves her
work. "My facilitation role is one in training, orientation and coaching.
My background is in marketing and sales, and I have since completed a course
in adult training and development," she says.
Clauss feels that skilled facilitators are artists. They will always be
needed and have an important job to accomplish.
"As meeting facilitators, we need to communicate our skills to the outside
world and show them what true benefits can be realized from using a professional
meeting facilitator," says Render.
"An outside meeting facilitator who is not familiar with a company's politics
and hierarchical structure can come into a group, hear everyone equally to
truly find out what the group is trying to say or do and complete the task
in a timely manner."
Render says meeting facilitators have to be careful not to simply state
their own opinions. "We must not let our own bias enter into a discussion,
thus casting our own slant on the discussion at hand," he says.
"We should only be the catalyst to generate discussion within a group and
then summarize the group's message, not our own message. We must never introduce
our own ideas or show a preference of opinion when facilitating a group."
Clients are often very thankful for the services of the facilitator. Diana
Smith is a facilitator. She finds that the most rewarding thing about facilitation
comes when a person makes a self-discovery. "People will have a personal discovery
of some sort that improves their effectiveness in their lives or in their
work setting," she says.
Steve Kaye, Meeting Facilitator
Kaye is the author of numerous articles on effective meetings