Critical In-Person Meeting Tips: Use a Facilitator

As organizations rethink their long-term work options — such as work-from-home, in-office, and hybrid arrangements — larger departmental, divisional, and company-wide meetings are making a comeback. One of the biggest in-person meeting tips I can provide is to use a facilitator!

The return of larger in-person meetings and off-sites is a good thing. People want to see each other face-to-face (we’ve also seen an increase in attendance at conferences and trade shows). People involved in face-to-face meetings are able to communicate effectively at more levels (content, tone-of-voice, and body language) and it’s easier to pursue an important, but not-specifically-on-the-agenda discussion or idea. Also, informal conversations, including conversations that build trust and relationships, happen more spontaneously than in a virtual meeting.

In-Person Meeting Tips 101

When Was the Last Time Your Organization Truly Gathered?

Getting back together is a big deal. Many organizations have not had in-person gatherings, trainings, strategic planning, or off-site meetings since 2019. These meetings are vitally important. The connections you make are critical. And you are probably out of practice — you want to get this right!

Using a professionally trained facilitator offers numerous advantages. A great facilitator helps people express themselves openly and honestly, they identify hurdles and challenges, and they work with everyone to develop an action plan.

In our view, the most important attribute a professional facilitator brings to the table is their understanding of group behavior and group performance. A skilled and knowledgeable facilitator excels at managing the interpersonal dynamics of a group and maximizing the contribution of each participant.

As noted in a Forbes article, published just as the pandemic was taking hold in the US, a facilitator serves to manage the process, help define meeting objectives, and works with people to properly prepare for the coming meeting — an often overlooked step.

Arden Coach, Sharon Krohn, also offers some great insights about planning for an impactful gathering, such as being VERY clear on why, exactly, you are really getting a group of people together

Don’t Let Your Senior Leaders Run the Meeting!

How many times have you attended an important strategic planning meeting, or a gathering to discuss mission and vision, and found the meeting facilitated by — perhaps dominated by — the CEO or a senior leader? How was your experience? This is a slippery slope.

Of course, it’s all well-intentioned. Leaders want to lead. They want to emphasize what’s important and guide the discussion. But no matter how well-intentioned they are, senior leaders rarely have the experience and the skill set of someone who is trained as a professional facilitator.

Even more important, no single individual can expertly facilitate a meeting and participate effectively at the same time. It’s simply not possible. It is essential that your senior leaders engage, participate, and be completely present in the purpose of the meeting — and not worrying about being a timekeeper, keeping track of potential action items, or making sure that the quieter members of the group have the space they need to express themselves.

The other big risk that is taken when the CEO or a senior leader “runs” the meeting is that it may be seen by the participants as choreographed or staged, with a predetermined direction and outcome — the outcome desired by the CEO or senior leader. This will shut down open and honest communication completely.

Use a Facilitator

A knowledgeable, highly qualified facilitator to help you make the most of your next important in-person meeting is a smart investment that will pay terrific dividends for your organization.

To learn more about how Arden Coaching can help with in-person meeting tips and creating an effective, engaging, and results-oriented in-person meeting — on- or off-site — contact Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.