8403 Colesville Rd., Suite 1100
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Is a Professional Facilitator Right for Your Corporate Event?

  • Posted by: Ellen Kandell

Organizations invest a lot of time and money when they get away from the office for a day or two to focus on long term planning or other crucial needs. You want to make sure this event is successful, and a neutral facilitator will help you do that.  Many factors are involved in a successful facilitation. This article will help managers and other decision makers think through these factors and their needs when searching for a professional facilitator for a retreat, team meeting or in group conflict.

How can a neutral facilitator help your organization?

Organizations use facilitators for team building, board meetings, group conflict and strategic planning meetings. A neutral professional facilitator can help an organization make sure they get the most out of the planned event.

The most important job of the facilitator is to help the organization determine the expected outcome of the day. A facilitator does this by asking pointed questions and listening very carefully. From these discussions and any organizational data, the facilitator will prepare a draft agenda which should be circulated to all meeting participants in advance of the event. The agenda serves as an informed roadmap to success.

What variables affect pricing for facilitation services?

The first variable is the pre-planning. This involves working with the meeting sponsor or planning group in determining the purpose and expected outcome of the event. Part of pre-planning may involve doing a survey or interviews with a sampling of the meeting participants. It also involves learning about the organization and its mission and reading background documents, such as issue papers, strategic plans, and any other relevant material. The second variable is the meeting record. Does the organization need a verbatim transcript of the meeting, a summary of the action items and recommendations or just typed flip chart notes? The third variable is post-meeting needs. Some organizations want the neutral facilitator to make recommendations based on his/her observations of the group. Finally, the number of attendees expected will also impact the cost.

Is industry specific or subject matter expertise required?

Generally industry specific or subject matter expertise is not required as long as the facilitator commits to learning as much about the organization and the current issues it is experiencing. Facilitators work on meetings for a wide range of organizations, corporations, non-profits, federal and county agencies and multi-sector stakeholder groups. They may spend the day with groups as diverse as orthopedic surgeons, community service providers, or government IT professionals. As long as the neutral professional facilitator is committed and invests time into learning about the organization and the issues it is currently confronting, industry specific knowledge is not a prerequisite.

What exactly is the facilitator’s role during the meeting?

The facilitator’s job is to ensure a safe environment so that everyone has an opportunity to contribute and participate in the discussions. He or she does this by developing ground rules and creating an appropriate meeting structure. The facilitator constantly observes the participants to make sure things are working for everyone. He or she takes the temperature of the room and adjusts the agenda for the needs of the group. If certain topics require more time, they seek the group’s permission to extend time on that issue. In addition to all of this monitoring, the facilitator asks pointed questions to make sure the discussion is aimed at meeting the objectives that the planning group set out in the preliminary meeting design phase.

Why can’t the team leader serve as the facilitator?

This is a great question since many leaders have good facilitation as well as leadership skills. However, if the team lead is responsible for keeping the group on track with the meeting agenda and the meeting purpose, they can’t also be a participant in the event in the same way as their fellow team members. The group would miss the benefit of the leader’s insight as a member of the team. If the leader were to try to facilitate and participate it would be important to identify which hat he or she is wearing each time he or she makes a contribution. In addition, the leader brings experience and a perspective that is not neutral. His or her reactions to team comments could skew the outcome and impact the discussion. The benefit of having an outside neutral is that he or she has no stake in the outcome and is solely devoted to making sure the meeting accomplishes its objective.

Ready to learn more? If you’re looking for a seasoned strategic planning facilitator in the Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Washington, DC area, get in touch with Alternative Resolutions today to see how we can help.

Ellen F. Kandell is a certified professional mediator and attorney with over 30 years of public and private sector experience. She is one of eight Maryland mediators featured on a statewide demonstration video of good mediation practice. Ellen is certified by the International Mediation Institute.  She provides mediation, group facilitation and training to diverse clients in Washington, DC and the US. Get in touch with her via email, and follow her on LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Author: Ellen Kandell

Leave a Reply