5 Ways to Level Up your Meeting Facilitation Skills

lvl-up-meeting-facilitation-gm

With meetings and workshops now commonplace, facilitation is considered a highly desirable  workplace skill; of course, it’s no surprise given the incredible difference a good facilitator can bring to such sessions.

Additionally, when one considers current employment trends, facilitation skills appear to be of even greater value; “empathy, judgement and leadership” being both in-demand skills, and core to the fabric of a good facilitator.

So whether you’re looking for a way to deliver greater value at work, or you’re keen to enhance your resume, honing your facilitation expertise is a great place to start.

At GroupMap, helping people think better together is what we’re all about. Here’s what we think makes a great facilitator along with some practical steps to help you get there.

What is a Facilitator?

A facilitator is a person who enables a group of people to work together more effectively so that they may deliver high-quality outcomes.

Those outcomes could be a range of things, including –

  • capturing and exploring ideas
  • making decisions
  • crafting a shared understanding
  • finding a solution to a problem
  • designing a product
  • achieving a consensus

What Makes a Great Facilitator?

A great facilitator sets the stage so that the group can perform together at their very best. The facilitator does this by supporting the two key elements of a collaborative session –

1. The Collaborative Process

The collaborative process is what happens during the session, as well as how, where and when it happens.

When building a process a facilitator considers –

  • the outcome required of the session and the date by which it is needed
  • who needs to be involved
  • what needs to happen at the beginning, middle and end of the session to deliver that outcome
  • how time should be allocated
  • if the session is to be in-person, online or both
  • when the session is to be held in order to deliver the outcomes when they are needed

2. The Collaborative Environment

A collaborative environment is one conducive to participation, cooperation and focus, and as a result, high-quality outcomes are delivered faster. They are psychologically safe spaces in which participants feel acknowledged, accepted and respected.  

In shaping a collaborative environment, a facilitator will demonstrate –

  • Respect: by recognising and acknowledging the intrinsic value of each participant in the session
  • Empathy: by putting aside their own context in order to be open to embrace a genuine understanding of that of the participant
  • Neutrality: by putting aside any bias, prejudice or agenda, so that only the inputs of the group shape the outcomes of the session

The facilitator will foster open channels of communication, ensuring –

  • input is honest
  • participation is balanced
  • conflict is respectfully addressed

A great facilitator remembers that, despite the fact all eyes may be upon them, they are not the star of the show; the stars are the participants, and it’s their time to shine.

What You Can do to Become a Better Facilitator

1. Get Organised

Whether you’re delivering an hour-long meeting, a half-day workshop, or week-long training, you need some sort of overview or agenda that outlines –

  • the purpose of the session
  • who is participating
  • when and where the session will happen
  • the steps that constitute the session
  • a timeframe

If you find yourself pulled in to deliver a session that isn’t supported with an outline, take the time to construct one with the group there and then. A quick brainstorm will ensure the purpose of the session is clear and the group is focussed; the smooth delivery of the session will make up for the time you spend with this initial gathering of thoughts.

  • send out calendar invitations along with the session overview well in advance.
  • lock in the resources you need to deliver the session

2. Open Those Channels of Communication

  • Kick off with an icebreaker to warm the group up; icebreakers are known to increase group engagement and focus.
  • Take the time to work with the group to establish the ‘house rules’ for the session. When members of a group know what they can expect of others and what is expected of them, the likelihood of participation increases while an environment of psychological safety is supported.
  • Don’t do all the talking; you are the conductor not the orchestra.
  • Deliver information in easily digestible steps; too much information will be overwhelming.
  • Allow for silence and thinking time. It allows individuals to consider their responses before sharing them.
  • Listen and paraphrase what is said to ensure you have understood things correctly.
  • Look to the body language of participants for additional cues.
  • Draw out and make space for reticent or quieter participants to contribute, and stack conversations to support balanced participation.

3. Keep an Eye on the Time

  • Allocate a time to each of the session steps, and stick to it!
  • Ensure participants are aware of the timeframes within which they are working.
  • Call out and wrap up circular conversations.
  • Park discussion if consensus can’t be reached and circle back if time allows.

4. Maintain the Focus

  • Use the number of inputs generated by the group as an indicator of their engagement; positively reinforce effort, it will inspire more participation and reinforce focus.
  • Check in regularly to assess energy levels; when energy wanes so does focus.
  • Listen out for chatter; it is a helpful barometer that can point to –
    • The completion of a task – so move the session on to the next step
    • Disengaged and distracted groups – so remind participants of the session’s purpose
  • If a participant seems off-topic, explore if their opinions support the purpose of the meeting.

5. Embrace a Facilitator’s Mindset

  • Be curious. Use questions and phrases such as –
    • What did you mean when you said…
    • Tell me more about…
    • What would that look like?
  • Adopt the mantra “it’s not about me”. Despite our very best of efforts, possibly only the most self-actualized of people are able to consistently exude respect, empathy and neutrality; this is a work-around until you get there.

Start Facilitating Today

GroupMap is an online collaboration tool designed by facilitators for facilitators. It helps you construct and deliver a polished collaboration process, and includes features that support the curation of a collaborative environment too.

GroupMap can be used to support face-to-face, virtual and hybrid sessions. It captures data as you go; there’s no tedious note transposing at the end of your workshop because GroupMap does it all for you!

Have more questions or would like a demo?

GroupMap: A Collaboration Tool Supporting Community Leaders To Continually Succeed

100% Clear on “What’s Next?” 

Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer is a Principal Consultant for Andrew Huffer and Associates – a facilitation, community engagement and team development specialists focused on helping team members to be 100% clear on ‘what’s next?’ 

Andrew’s main role is in program design and development and facilitation. As a recent GroupMap Certified Digital Facilitator and user for over five years, Andrew has used the online brainstorming and collaboration platform with up to 35 clients, to deliver 100+ workshops. 

Recently, Andrew was engaged to facilitate the Community Leaders – Stepping Up and Stepping Out Forum. The workshop aimed to challenge participants to consider how they can step out and step up to support their communities once their leadership programs finished. 

The forum was hosted by the Victorian Regional Community Leadership Program (now known as Regional Leadership Australia).

The intended outcomes of the forum were:

  • Gain exposure to strategic thinking beyond the group’s own localities
  • Use insights to broaden the group’s leadership capacity
  • Expand the organisation’s leadership support base

A Collaboration Tool for Face-to-Face and Digital Facilitation

Over 80 people attended the forum which was held concurrently with participants in Melbourne and Canberra (where a program group was visiting Parliament House). Andrew and his team used a participative approach for the forum to:

  • Share insights from experienced leaders
  • Understand the potential impacts of regional population growth
  • Consider future opportunities for regional leadership

Over his many years and experiences in delivering and facilitating workshops, Andrew found that a face to face setting presented a challenge of laboriously tracking and managing participant input using paper-based tools (flipcharts, templates, post-it notes etc.) 

Documenting reports was time-consuming and arduous.

Meanwhile, in the online space, Andrew discovered there were a few tools available, but they were mostly focused on project management or very ‘clunky’ to use from a design and participant perspective.

 

GroupMap: Supporting Facilitation 

Five years ago, in 2015, Andrew was introduced to GroupMap by a colleague who was really into tech-based approaches to facilitation. 

Andrew’s overarching goals for an online collaboration tool included:

  • Easy to use and navigate for participants and facilitators alike;
  • Template-based;
  • Suited and enhanced facilitation digitally, face to face or in a hybrid situation. 

GroupMap Collaboration Tool in Action

Collaboration Tool for Better Engagement 

Throughout his years of using GroupMap, Andrew indicated that he has seen many benefits the online collaboration tool brings to achieving outcomes for facilitated workshops, conferences and meetings. 

At the recent Community Leaders – Stepping Up and Stepping Out Forum, Andrew designed the workshop so that participants worked in breakout groups in both locations to undertake a Wave Analysis to identify:

  • New Edges Emerging Trends, and,
  • Established Norms and Dying Practices in regards to regional leadership. 

Participants then identified a ‘big idea’ that they wanted to implement and used the action planning feature of GroupMap to outline how they will make it happen.

“With participants being split across two locations and most using Group Map for the first time, it was important that the workshop process and steps were clear,” said Andrew.

“Being able to outline the objectives for each workshop step within GroupMap templates made this easier. Group Map is also fairly intuitive and simple to follow for most users.” 

“For displaying results and reporting it’s easy to zoom in and highlight different elements of each map. The templates are fantastic for design purposes.”

Templates

Loved by facilitators and participants

Over the years of using GroupMap, Andrew has noticed that his participants loved how easy it is to use. This often led to participants seeing the potential for using GroupMap to further collaborate more meaningfully with their own teams and community stakeholders.

From his recent Community Leaders – Stepping Up and Stepping Out Forum, Andrew noted how GroupMap also provided an effective tool to enable meaningful participation amongst participants concurrently across multiple locations. 

“My client was very happy that we had a robust tool to enable this to happen. With the participants doing the documentation, I could focus my efforts on checking in with the groups to help them where needed. 

“Being able to see outputs generated in real time is a great way to check in to see if groups are ‘on track’.”

The forum resulted in several initiatives identified for participants to implement that will benefit regional communities as part of their leadership programs.

 

Andrew’s GroupMap and digital facilitation tips!

Andrew has also kindly shared his digital facilitation and GroupMap use tips that focus on making sure that any virtual workshops, activities and meetings are even more engaging and effective than ever. 

 

Digital facilitation tips

 

Andrew has created a series of videos focused on sharing his online facilitation learnings. In this video titled: “One percenters to keep your participants engaged,” Andrew shares top tips to help keep your participants engaged and productive throughout your online workshop. 

Some of the best practices we love:

  1. Make more effort to keep your events engaging. 
  2. Deliver in shorter blocks of time than you would face to face
  3. Think of ways to incorporate non-screen based activities
  4. Focus on the core elements of (1)  tapping into the diversity of the group (2) helping it
  5. to do its thinking and (3) deliver outcomes

 

GroupMap: Collaboration tool tips and tricks

In his five years of using GroupMap, Andrew has certainly picked up a lot of learnings and tips and tricks for using our online collaboration platform. 

Here’s some he has shared:

  1. Design your Group Maps to match the purpose and outcomes that you’re trying to achieve (not the other way around). There’s plenty of templates and design options in Group Map to enable this. 
  2. It’s also best to keep processes reasonably simple when you start or for people new to the online space. Ideally it’s great to have scribes or co-facilitators working with breakout groups to help them stay on track where needed.

 

Try GroupMap for your next engaging meetings, workshops or events!

Thank you Andrew for sharing your GroupMap journey, story and learnings with us. If you’re a facilitator like Andrew or belong in a team who are looking for a more engaging and effective way of brainstorming, try GroupMap today, FREE for 14 days.

Workshop Facilitation Feature Spotlight: Tagging ideas

tagging of ideas in groupmap

Let’s talk about tagging ideas!

Running online meetings with your virtual teams can be made easier each time with facilitation tools that can focus conversations and help people think better together. 

Our feature spotlights give you insights, tips and strategies to help run engaging and effective remote team meetings. 

This post talks about how you can use tagging ideas from your GroupMap brainstorming session so that you can filter and identify key focus areas. Let’s have a look at how this works. 

 

Tagging ideas – What is it? 

People can now tag ideas and display these on ideas. Filter them to show ideas during a particular stage.

tagging of ideas in groupmap

When and why is tagging ideas is useful?

Being able to tag ideas can help you identify key areas of focus oo categorize data into meaningful themes. 

This sense-making activity can help people better consolidate data as well as identify relationships between 2 or more ideas or just use it to assign meaning as part of your process.

Examples include adding: 

  • Priority (Low, Medium, High), 
  • Interest areas (People, Process, Community) 
  • Function (Technology, Finance, Human Resources)
  • Owner (Management, everyone, team)
  • A Goal or KPI ( Objective 1, Objective 2)
  • or any other theme you like.

How do I create tags?

  1. Go to CUSTOMISE your map 
  2. Under OPTIONS, select IDEAS FIELDS & FEATURES. 
  3. Add in all the tag options.
  4. Allow people to SELECT MULTIPLE tags or SHOW BADGE ON IDEAS as needed. 
  5. Click ok and then repeat if you want another set of tags.

turning on the feature

groupmap feature

groupmap tagging of ideas

During your online meeting or workshop, this will show up on the ideas dialogue where people can tag ideas.

groupmap ideas map

You can then filter ideas if you want to focus on a particular aspect.

Click on the stage the click SHOW IDEAS by Category.

show ideas by category

Pro Facilitation Tip

Tagging as you discuss an idea is a neat way to engage people critically as you discuss topics. At the end of the exercise, you can then also manage information overload on the screen by just showing a particular set of ideas (for example all the high priority items) one at a time. 

You can talk through ideas that belong in the same field or category and build on commonality as well as see relationships or gaps.

 

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