How much will your next meeting cost? $1,000/hour? $5,000/hour? Does your current meeting facilitator or leader help your company make more money by effectively facilitating profitable meetings? Or do they have a style that kills productivity and morale?
When I work as a Professional Meeting Facilitator I turn mediocre meetings into energized, focused and profitable experiences for everyone involved. So in order to pass along everything I know about how to facilitate an awesome meeting, I have put together the following list of suggestions.
1. Measure The Meeting Cost
Meetings are expensive. So measuring the cost-per-hour of your next gathering could be the best incentive you have to improve your meeting facilitation skills. To help you figure out your meeting cost-per-hour I recommend the following 2-step approach.
Step 1 – Choose An Outrageous Meeting Story
Choose an outrageous success story and calculate the hourly meeting cost. For example, let’s use the Montreal Canadiens hockey team because they have won the most Stanley Cup Championships. Each year they pay approximately $66 million dollars to 26 players (source: HockyBuzz.com) – and if those players work 2000 hours a year like most people – then the cost for those 26 players to attend a Montreal Canadien’s team meeting is about $33,000 PER HOUR!
What will happen if their coach is a lousy facilitator? He won’t get his message across. The players will stop listening. The star players might ask to be traded. Ultimately the team will lose a lot of games and a lot of money.
What will happen if their coach is a fantastic facilitator? He will be able to completely implement his strategy because the players will respect him and be inspired. Star players will shine. Ultimately the team will win more often and earn an exponentially large amount of profits (go Habs go!).
If you were the team owner, what sort of coach would you want facilitating your team meetings?
Step 2 – Make It Relevant To Your Team
Now you can apply the same approach to your next meeting. For example, let’s say you’re leading a weekly department meeting. If your company spends approximately $1,000,000 dollars per year to pay 15 people – and those 15 people work 2000 hours per year like most NHL hockey players – then the cost of a weekly department meeting is about $500 dollars PER HOUR! Or $25,000+ dollars PER YEAR!
So what are you getting back for that $25,000? If you know those meetings are making your company profitable then you know your leader is probably a strong facilitator. If you know those weekly department meetings have caused staff members to quit, or you simply don’t know how to connect those weekly meetings to your profitability, then you should consider upgrading the facilitation skills of your meeting leader.
2. Rate Your Current Meeting Leader’s Facilitation Skills
Before you can upgrade your leader’s facilitation skills you have to assess where they are at today. The following guideline will help you get started.
A Poor Meeting Facilitator:
- Can’t be trusted
- Is not prepared
- Talks more than they listen
- Probably likes the Toronto Maple Leafs
An Average Meeting Facilitator:
- Is trustworthy
- Prepares the agenda in advance
- Listens well
- Is a good time manager
An Awesome Meeting Facilitator:
- Is confident, firm and passionate
- Listens deeply and brings out the best in everyone
- Loves to laugh
- Ties the results of this meeting to your overall organization strategy
- Helps people disagree in a highly productive and respectful way
- Ensures that each person commits to at least one action item before they leave
So do you have a poor, average or awesome meeting facilitator? What skill level would you like them to have? Should your current meeting leader be removed from the meeting or can you help them to improve?
3. Set The Leader Up For Facilitation Training Success
Too often ‘facilitation skills training’ is treated as ‘extra’. This means that the meeting leader has to do the training in addition to their already ridiculous pile of duties. If you really want your current leader to become an awesome facilitator then set them up to be successful by:
- Investing a proper amount of your budget to pay for; the best possible facilitation training you can afford; and someone to backfill for the leader on specific projects
- Setting out clear expectations for the training as in; definite start and end dates; state how the completed skill set should be put to use; define what type of additional compensation the leader should receive for doing this additional training
- Setting up the leader’s schedule to accommodate the training
- Encouraging the leader and giving them feedback as they go through this facilitation training process
4. Get Excellent Meeting Facilitator Training Resources
If you want to teach your current leader how to become an awesome facilitator then consider the following facilitation training resources:
- The International Association of Facilitators (IAF). This is a participatory organization with representation in over 65 countries. The IAF believes, “Good facilitation can change the way people think and act, and ultimately support them to positively change the world around them.”
- Contact your local Business Association and/or Chamber of Commerce to get recommendations about where to find the best local facilitation training
- Contact your local state or provincial governments to see what types of courses they offer. For example the Alberta Government Department of Culture & Tourism offers a 3-Day Facilitation Training Course
- Contact your local college or university to find out what they have to offer. For example, the Executive Education at the University of Alberta has all kinds of courses to help leaders become more effective.
5. Work With A Meeting Mentor
Another way to help your current meeting leader become an awesome facilitator is to find a meeting mentor within your own organization. Often there will be an experienced senior leader who knows how to effectively facilitate meetings that you can learn from.
Contact them and ask if they are interested in helping your current leader to improve. Name the stakes as in, “If our current leader doesn’t improve he will be removed from the meeting.”
Lay out a clear ‘road map’ for the commitment. For example, you could ask the mentor to work one-on-one, twice a week with the current leader. Then the mentor could sit in on the next meeting as an observer. Afterwards the mentor could get together with your leader to give feedback.
Follow up by measuring whether or not your current meeting leader has improved. Then you can work with the mentor and the leader to figure out what to do next.
Other benefits for finding an internal meeting mentor include:
- They are already on the payroll so it makes it cost effective for the company
- They are loyal to the company and will guard company secrets
- It is a great way to build internal management capacity
6. Hire A Professional Meeting Facilitation Coach
You could also hire a Professional Meeting Facilitation Coach to work one-on-one with your current leader to help them improve. A Professional Meeting Facilitation Coach can:
- Facilitate a meeting so the leader can observe and learn
- Observe the leader during a meeting and then give feedback
- Help the leader work out problems with key employees
- Demonstrate how to dynamically manage the meeting time
- Help the leader to enjoy facilitating so that they and their staff can have fun
Tips For Hiring A Professional Facilitator
- Make sure they have a style that suits your meeting leader
- Make sure they have credible references
- Make sure they will provide an engagement contract and that they will also sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement
- Make sure they are insured for Error & Omissions as well as Commercial General Liability
7. Measure Facilitation Training Return On Investment
Facilitation training is only worthwhile if it pays off. So within a specific period of time you need to understand if it’s giving you a solid return on investment. This means that before you start the meeting facilitation training process you should lay out a clear set of outcome objectives including:
- At least one direct financial win. For example, after facilitation training, the meeting leader should be able to connect what happens in the next meeting to a direct financial outcome
- The staff in the meeting could be surveyed before and after the leader does facilitation training. Then you’ll know if the staff is satisfied with the outcome or not
8. Take Action!
Like I said at the beginning, meetings are expensive. So how many more poorly facilitated meetings can your company afford? It is time to take action and help every meeting leader in your organization learn how to become an awesome meeting facilitator!
- Measure The Meeting Cost
- Rate Your Current Meeting Leader’s Facilitation Skills
- Set The Leader Up For Facilitation Training Success
- Get Excellent Meeting Facilitator Training Resources
- Work With A Meeting Mentor
- Hire A Professional Meeting Facilitation Coach
- Measure Facilitation Training Return On Investment
- Take Action!