I recently read a blog post by Hannah Feldberg-Dubin of the Design Gym. She describes the capabilities required to be a highly effective facilitator. Several of her key points pertain to preparation for an important meeting or workshop. Let's focus on that important preparation phase f or a moment. Drawing from her article, here are a few lessons that you might apply the next time you have to lead a team meeting:
1. Physical space & materials: What type of physical space do you require? What materials should you have available for the participants? Remember that environment shapes behavior. How you design the environment will have a significant impact on the way people interact during your meeting or workshop. If you want collaboration, think about how to promote that. If you want to stimulate creativity, consider the types of materials that might be fuel for innovative thought.
2. Purpose & desired outcomes: What is the intent of this meeting or workshop? What are the desired outcomes? Make sure that everyone understands the intent and the desired end state.
3. Shared norms and ground rules: How will the group members interact with one another? What rules of engagement do you want to establish and enforce during the meeting? I suggest creating a poster for the wall that defines these norms and ground rules.
4. Pre-work: Often, we skip the pre-work because we are not sure that members will actually complete it. However, we can get much more accomplished if people come to a meeting or workshop already having done some reading, conducted some analysis, or reviewed certain data. Keep the pre-work manageable, but consider assigning some work to be done before you gather together.
5. Instructions: If you have certain activities planned, be sure you are prepared to offer clear and concise instructions. Run the instructions by a colleague before the meeting, and ask for feedback. Make sure that these instructions make sense to your colleague, and that he or she interprets them as you intended.
6. Technology: What technology will enable an effective conversation? Don't overdo the slides. Focus on creating a good dialogue, and use technology to stimulate that healthy give-and-take. Don't put excessive technological demands on the participants, particularly if they are not particularly tech-savvy. Test the technology beforehand. Nothing derails a meeting more than having to fiddle with a computer that isn't working properly, or waiting for A/V help to arrive.
7. Food! Ok, nothing derails a good workshop like bad food and drink, or a lack of food and drink. Maintaining energy in the room is key to good facilitation, and a bit of fuel can be very helpful.