[This is the third part in a three part series – hope you’ve enjoyed reading it! Here are links to Part 1 & Part 2 if you’ve missed them]
Part of being prepared is being flexible. It’s a trait shared by meeting professionals (both planners and suppliers), speakers and meeting facilitators.
As a facilitator, part of the job is to keep the group focused on the agenda. At the same time, you need to be flexible and prepared for all eventualities. Many times “Plan A” isn’t working and you need to change tactics and redirect. Sometimes venturing off the original path gives you unexpected (even better!) results.
Here are some tips for flexible facilitation:
Spend time up front with your client to determine their objective for the meeting – why are they meeting and what do they want to accomplish? Work with your client to create an agenda that meets their objectives, while incorporating down time and flexibility.
Bring a “bag of tricks” with activities for the team. Be prepared to swap out some scheduled activities for others or add new ones depending on the group dynamics.
Work hard to keep team members focused on the end goal and allow contributions from everyone. Have techniques ready to refocus conversation, draw out those who might be shy about giving an opinion and ensure no one monopolizes the conversation.
Sometimes the best laid plans just aren’t working. Instead of banging your head against the wall (I’ve done that too), call a “time out” and start fresh. Often stepping back, taking a break and regrouping will help reenergize the team. You might realize that the original objectives weren’t realistic and you need to reshuffle the cards.
Have fun – meetings (even budgeting and strategic planning ones) don’t have to be boring! Incorporate time for attendees to get to know each other – breaking down barriers can foster more collaboration and creativity (and laughter!).
Being responsible for keeping a team on track is not an easy task and takes a special skill set. Organization, patience and flexibility all help you be prepared for any eventuality and draw the meeting to a successful conclusion.
Carolyn is a seasoned meeting planner, meeting facilitator and speaker. She credits her organizational skills and two kids for her ability to stay flexible and just “roll with it.” Thanks for reading this “Be Prepared” series.