Even the best facilitator in the world will fail miserably if they don’t show up prepared.  Anyone can succeed with enough forethought. Today’s post focuses on some recent workshop success, and the reasons why it was a success, shared with us by an MG RUSH Alumna.

“Workshop success! I’m happy to share that yesterday’s SE Asia Region planning workshop went off wonderfully.  My boss and VPs all commented that it was clear a lot of thought and care went into the format, sessions, and questions, all to good use.”

Workshop Success: Professional Training

Workshop Success -- Bubble Chart

Workshop Success — Bubble Chart

If you want to get better facilitating, nothing beats immersion and practice.

“Again, I want to emphasize how useful our FAST training was.  I’ve used it, shared it, and need to connect with HR to tell them how useful it was.  Multiple people have caught me to say one-on-one what a great success this workshop was, and they credited how I facilitated in particular.  The coaching you provided was tremendously helpful and the prep work I did really made a difference.”

Workshop Success: Balance Listening and Reflecting

Effective facilitators do not stand idly while others speak around them. They force content to go through them so they can provide reflection. Visual reflection is frequently more effective than audio reflection.

“Managing the flow of conversation (through me) was one of the more successful differences I saw in this workshop.  I spent most of my time recording at the flip charts, referencing our posted agenda or objectives, or the takeaways from previous steps.  I asked WHY frequently, asked for clarification of terms, and prompted for more detail at various times.”

Workshop Success: Maintaining Control

Never lose control of context.  As process policeperson, your group depends on you to prevent scope creep.  Keep track of progress as it relates to time and work remaining so that you can modulate meeting tempo.

“Perhaps most telling is that we did not have any conversation hijacking in this workshop!  (Sally) did not dominate the conversation. (Frank) did not steer us off course. We did not find ourselves somehow on a tangent or incorrectly focused on in-the-weeds details.  When such drifts started, I would remind the group of the high-level focus, take the conversation back to the objectives or the intent of a particular step, and we’d flow back on track quite well.”

Workshop Success: Do Not Facilitate Context

Never ask a group about context, such as “How do you want to make that decision.”  They need you for contextual leadership, not for content. Exude confidence around the method you manage and depend on them to fill in with their content.

“One thing in particular worth sharing really stuck for me. When challenged on the agenda or sessions, was my role was clearly to provide the appropriate structure.  I do not open up unwieldy options or choices to the workshop participants (such as “which countries would you like to discuss today?” as I was repeatedly asked to do!), but instead framed that in order to meet our objectives for the workshop, we needed to focus on specific areas and decisions.  The scope discipline was so helpful, and I really felt the confidence in holding to that because of our training days.”

Workshop Success: Annotated Agenda

Nothing beats a solid, well-scripted annotated agenda.  When done well, you should be able to pass your annotation on to someone else to facilitate. Remember, it provides the play script for what to say and do.

“Also helpful were little notes to myself throughout the day, when I would worry I was too quiet that that was actually OK if the conversation was on track and flowing well, or when I’d notice ‘ugh- I just said >I< again!’ It helped to capture responses verbatim (no need to synthesize while facilitating).  It was good to be aware of things in a way that was calm and mindful, but not get flustered.  My sense is that I have you to thank for your approach and feedback. It was so supportive and constructive in a way that built up my skillset. It didn’t introduce securities or sensitivities around ways to be even stronger.  Thank you for that!

Workshop Success: Alumni Resources

Don’t forget the value of the nearly one thousand files and documents you can download with your alumni password.  If you lost yours, simply write us for an update.

“I also wanted to pass along the materials used.  Your feedback about simple but impactful changes in the presentation–colors, aligning the coding, etc., were great tips.  The pages I prepared in advance used the banners and colors more consistently; those items made on the fly (like the competitor sheet) do not reflect the same care.

Workshop Success: Graphic Stimulation

We are confident you remember that a picture is worth a thousand words. Agile has resurrected the value of writing things down and moving them around.  Don’t forget that a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures.

“The bubble chart! The attendees responded really well to creating a bubble chart of our priority countries. I posted sticky dots so we could move them around and debate their placement as a whole.  The size is reflective of market, and the colors were reflective of regulatory status– emerging, developing, or mature.  Good tip on the level of detail to provide in these materials. The bubble chart was easily one of the favorite visuals in the room.  Working with large Post-It Notes® is a skillset I am sure will become more second nature with time and practice.”

Workshop Success: Follow the FAST Introductory Sequence

Nothing gives participants greater confidence in their facilitator than a sharp introduction.  Follow the seven-step sequence we recommend, even for a one-hour meeting.

“I also wrote up the agenda and had a large arrow I moved down the sheet as we progressed. I explained during administrivia that if we needed to dig in on a topic we could, but we’d have to sacrifice time elsewhere.  That was valuable during a couple steps.”

Workshop Success: Know Your Deliverable

Always keep the end in mind.  Know what DONE looks like.  Keep moving the group toward decisions, next steps, and clear understanding about progress made during your meeting.

“Lastly, our agenda ended the day with a very difficult topic for the leadership team.  We planned to assign ownership for discrete country activities. We did not actually get to a place of assigning roles/responsibilities but instead had a much-needed, healthy, and contentious discussion. I did have a RASI breakout session planned, however could not get to that level of assignment.  Will be following up with leadership this week to get some movement on those assignments, using that format.

In the end, the CEO, my VP, and I enabled the group to reach high level decisions and it felt great!  I’ve really benefitted from your input to date and hope to continue growing. Thank you so very much for helping me improve this talent. — LC, Country Planning & Operations Director”

Become Part of the Solution While You Improve Your Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology Skills

MG RUSH Professional Facilitation Training provides an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, and 3.2 CEUs. As a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), our Professional Facilitation Training aligns with IAF Certification Principles and fully prepares alumni for their Certified Professional Facilitator designation.

Furthermore, our Professional Facilitation curriculum immerses students in the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Because nobody is smarter than everybody, attend an MG RUSH Professional Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology workshop offered around the world, see MG RUSH for a current schedule.

Additionally, go to the Facilitation Training Store to access our in-house resources. Finally, you will discover numerous annotated agendas, break timers, and templates.

In conclusion, we dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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