As a certified practising facilitator, I really enjoy developing and delivering workshops and meetings for a broad range of clients and situations.

Over the last few months, I’ve led local community consultations on behalf of an aged care provider, delivered full-day strategic planning and marketing workshops for small groups and large (over 50 attendees), and facilitated a variety of certified professional development courses.

Whatever the situation, I believe that there are five key principles that you should apply to any group discussion to produce an effective, outcomes-focused meeting.    

Business meeting

1.  Be in the present and treat the session with respect

Actively listen to your audience and what they want to achieve. Research shows that 70% of people’s thoughts are based in the past, 20% in the future and only 10% in the present (Source: Jeffrey Walker’s ‘Get in the flow state’). The key challenge is getting people to be in the present, trust their counterparts (who are likely to have different roles and perspectives) and enable a flowing conversation in which everyone listens and everyone participates.

Get everyone to put their phones on silent and remove any other distractions – laptops or emails. Treat the session with respect. Encourage people to remove negative judgements from the room – ice-breaker exercises can certainly help with this.

2.  Know your strategic intent

Understand your intended outcomes before the session starts, then communicate them clearly to the group. What is the purpose of the session and how does each of the group members relate to it? What does it mean to them and what is their role in the session?

Start planning well beforehand to understand whether you need an educative process or simply a working group session to agree on some clear outcomes and actions.

3.  Structure your session

Plan your session in detail, whether it’s one hour or a whole day. Put a timetable together and stick to it. I find it a good idea to consider the structure in 20-minute increments.

Break your session into sections – will it be a full day, half day or 90 minutes? Your session length will depend on what you want to achieve and how much time you need to produce the desired results. It’s about getting the most out of group participants and decision-makers. It’s only once they hear what the others are saying that they are able to reflect on that and benefit by applying their thought process to it.

4.  Gain trust

Gaining trust is all important. You may have a theory you are working around, but you want to get people engaged with that theory as a group. To do this, there can be no ‘sage on the stage’ (no ‘know-it-all’ facilitator!). Your role is to get people to work synergistically.

The SCARF model considers the five domains of human social experience: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. It’s a useful model to consider when you want to bring different individuals together and to influence them.

5.  Manage the group discussion

Some people speak more than others, and that can be okay. But it is important to manage group discussion to the advantage of the group – not the individual. It’s also important to develop a consensus. What are we going to do as a group? Give everyone an equal chance to participate in discussions.

 If you are interested in how Edmonds Marketing can help you with your strategic meeting requirements or the development of bespoke marketing and communication workshops, email damien@edmondsmarketing.com.au. We’d love to chat this through with you.

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