Maximizing Meeting Impact: Design and Facilitation
How often do people come away from a business meeting feeling engaged and energized about the process, and enthusiastic and committed to the outcome? We are experts at generating just such results, having designed and facilitated hundreds of meetings over the past 30 years. We became immersed in the process in the early 1990's, driving the implementation of electronic decision support systems for JP Morgan, New York. Our expertise in group dynamics using technology was recognized in Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and The American Banker.
We have designed and facilitated sessions ranging from a few hours to multi-day events. Our skills and experience in group dynamics and facilitation, including large group intervention processes, are, quite frankly, second to none. Over the years, we have been called upon to facilitate hundreds of meetings, off-sites and all sorts of other events for a wide-range of purposes including:
- Strategy development
- Building teamwork and commitment across the boundaries of the organization (i.e. different functional groups, different locations)
- Engagement and inclusion of organization members on a broader and deeper basis
- New product development
- Team interventions (including damage control situations)
- Motivational engagement gatherings
- Events designed to celebrate success and have fun
- Employee interranking
- Graduate trainee orientation programs
- Charity events
Sometimes we are called in to help navigate or diffuse a difficult situation; sometimes we are tasked with keeping a multi-day event on track; and sometimes we are asked just to interject a bit of fun, or "light but useful" education into an otherwise heavy and/or dull conference agenda. Participants have ranged from graduate trainees to boards of directors at some of the largest firms in the world. As a minimum, we help clients avoid meetings that become nothing more than a series of long, boring, "show and tell" updates by various key people.
The challenge of keeping people engaged when they come together in person can be significant. This challenge grows exponentially when we include remote locations or conduct the entire session virtually. The keys to success include preparation, well-thought-through design, fast-paced delivery, frequent interaction with each other and creating a fun atmosphere to encourage active participation. The experience and skills of the facilitator can often make or break the success of he session.
Specific Design Considerations
- Meeting purpose: Are we here to: Provide status updates? Share information? Provide input? Solve a problem? Offer creative ideas? Make a decision? Commit to some sort of follow up action?
- Desired outcome: What does "success" look like? Are the relative priorities of the outcome elements clear ("must haves, nice to haves, can be dropped if necessary")? How do we measure this success along multiple dimensions?
- Role of Facilitator: Why do we think we need one? What value will they provide? How active should they be? Is their style compatible with the leader and group members? What level of experience is necessary given the level of the group and the challenges facing the group?
- Participants: Who needs to be involved? How many need to be involved? What other functional groups might benefit from participating in the process? Are we limiting the number because we believe this leads to greater efficiency and effectiveness for the group? Are all group members capable of contributing to the dialog in a meaningful fashion?
- Roles of the leader and the participants: Who needs to be involved? Are we including the right participants/constituent groups? Is this a hierarchical process or a shared responsibility process? Does the leader or process owner intend to implement what the group decides or gather input from the group and make the final decision?
- Cultural Considerations (corporate culture and country of origin): Are there strong cultural norms around the need for structure vs flexibility? Does the group value a visionary holistic approach or tend to favor specific actions focused on the here and now? How open is the culture of the organization and the people involved? Is the culture one of high trust? Are all participants equally proficient in the language of the meeting? Does the culture deal with conflict openly in a healthy manner?
- Rules of engagement: How specific and formal do they need to be? For a multi-functional meeting, does each functional group carry the same weight with respect to determining the outcome? Is the facilitator expected to take direction primarily from the group from the leader?
While we are masters at meeting facilitation - both in-room and virtually - we are also experts in the application of meeting effectiveness tools such as Six Thinking Hats , Lateral Thinking , personality type assessments, leadership/team effectiveness methods - and can leverage these techniques as needed to steer the group interaction to a desired outcome.
We have the group dynamics skills, the pragmatic approach and the humor needed to make your meetings highly engaging and in most cases, even fun. Give us a call - it never hurts to talk.