How Facilitators Use Advanced Skills to Lead Meetings
By Carlotta Jones
These days, meetings are quite common within a corporate environment. They might be scheduled to assess what went wrong on a particular project, to improve the interpersonal dynamics of a dysfunctional team, or to strategically plan for the future.
While it might be cheaper to have someone within the company leading these meetings, the truth is that they will not be as effective as a professional group facilitator, because they have not been trained in the most effective ways of leading a meeting.
During training, facilitators pick up a range of advanced interpersonal skills that allow them to oversee a meeting effectively for optimal results. What might those skills be?
Facilitators will always have a well-prepared agenda that they create before the meeting, which highlights key points that need to be discussed. Yet, they must also be ready to change course if something unexpected happens. If participants feel like the person leading the meeting is reading from a prepared script, they will be less likely to respond. Therefore a flexible facilitator will get better responses from the group.
Reading Body Language
Organizational leaders are usually not trained in reading body language, so most will be unable to do so during a meeting. By observing whether people are shifting in their seats, looking for confused or disinterested facial expressions, or determining the level of enthusiasm based on how they share their ideas, facilitators are able to get a better reading of how engaged the audience is.
Using Body Language
Reading the body language of others is important, but a good group facilitator will also know how to use their own body language effectively. A facilitator who sits with the rest of the group might help participants feel that everyone is on equal footing, allowing them to relax.
A facilitator who sits in front of, or beside, a shy individual will help that person relax and feel more comfortable sharing their opinion. This is because the individual can focus on speaking just to the facilitator, rather than being nervous about sharing something with the whole group.
Throughout the meeting, the discussion might take several different turns and participants can quickly forget what was discussed earlier. A good facilitator will summarize points or decisions made during the meeting, and even ask for questions after the summary to get everyone on the same page.
By communicating these things over the course of the meeting, a group facilitator keeps his or her audience engaged by making sure that they understand what is being said at all times.
Communication will also be important as facilitators ask questions or work to generate responses. Their years of experience will provide them with the confidence necessary to ask questions or make comments without adding ums or speaking too fast. Participants will pick up on this confidence and consequently respect their leader.
It will be far more difficult for an organizational leader to gain the respect from participants because of pre-existing relationships. Even those leaders who are respected in other business settings can lose respect in meetings if the audience does not feel that they are qualified to oversee the whole thing.
The best way to acquire these and other skills will be for an organization to hire a group facilitator for their next meeting.
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