Does the thought of a multi-stakeholder or organizational planning meeting fill you with dread?

Do you believe outside facilitators are unnecessary and you can just do it in-house?

Have you ever watched helplessly as a company group exercise or public meeting went off the rails?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone. The role and responsibilities of the professional facilitator are frequently misunderstood, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you have not had the opportunity to participate in a meeting with a professional facilitator or you have worked with a less-than-effective facilitator. There can be confusion as to what a professional facilitator is actually supposed to do. We’ve identified 3 key concepts that define a facilitator:

  • A facilitator is a content neutral person who guides the group to consensus.
  • He or she supports a collaborative and respectful environment that encourages full participation from each individual in the group.
  • The facilitator helps the group stay organized, focused and keeps the discussion on the topic.

Like any other specialized field, group facilitation expertise is a body of knowledge that is developed over time and with specific training. Facilitators utilize a proven set of techniques and tools to help ensure productive meetings.

Overcoming myths about what facilitation is continues to challenge professional facilitators. Some misconceptions about facilitation include:

  • It’s acceptable for a facilitator to take over a group. The facilitator serves as a guide, but should not take over the discussion. The facilitator’s role is to help the group reach consensus and move forward.
  • Facilitators are only there for the meeting. Work for the professional facilitator should begin long before the meeting has begun. The facilitator partners with a task leader to develop a group event that meets agreed-upon outcomes and deliverables. The research and preparation undertaken prior to the meeting is an important component of successful facilitation.
  • Facilitation is easy. Facilitation is a professional skill that requires practice and takes time to master. Experienced facilitators can read group dynamics, adjust their facilitation plan as the process plays out and respond to challenges and opportunities as needed. One of the most common challenges is one or two people want to dominant the meeting or discussion. A trained facilitator knows how to handle this situation and ensures everyone’s voice is heard.

At Align, we believe that a well-structured and effectively facilitated meeting enables greater sharing of wisdom, a deeper level of commitment, and in the end, better decisions. We are experienced in facilitating a wide variety of gatherings, from small organizational meetings to multi-stakeholder and public meetings. Contact us to see how Align might be able to help you.

– The Align Team