Removing distractions so that a group can be here now remains the most important goal of an effective facilitator. Getting the right group of people to focus on one issue at a time ensures a successful outcome.
Yet we all know how hard it is to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time, to truly be here now. Researches claim that meeting participants divert their attention to other or personal topics every six to eight minutes. If you have a meeting with twelve people, someone is “waking up” every 30 seconds.
Constantly Reinforce Be Here Now
Simply apply the ground rule Be Here Now won’t alone solve the problem, but it will help, especially if you take the time to explain everything it means to your participants.
- Post a visual agenda and put an arrow or other device on it to indicate where the group is on the agenda. Do not use the check box approach since it is never clear if the group is on the last checked box or the next unchecked box. Shopping mall signs indicate where you are, not where you were.
- Ask participant to “be here now’ and strive to keep their consciousness focused on listening and contributing. Ask them to stay fresh, and if necessary, take more frequent breaks. Bio-breaks should be offered more frequently in the morning and with virtual meetings (eg,videopresence). Consider 30-second “stretch” breaks every thirty minutes; offering up quick deep knee bends or shoulder turns to keep participants awake and fresh. Some cultures refer to this as a 30-30, and if it is part of your culture, use a timepiece or timer to signal each 30-minute segment.
- Have participants disengage their electronic leashes and beware because the vibration mode does not mean silent, only lower tones. If participants cannot wait to address an electronic request, have them take it out of the room, but do not allow laptops, smart phones, and multi-tasking. Groups that claim to multi-task, perform mentally at the level of chimpanzees. Do you really want to facilitate a roomful of monkeys?
- Participants should not arrive late, either at the meeting start or after breaks. Start meetings on time so that you don’t punish the people who attend on time. Use FAST timers to ensure on time attendance after breaks.
- If participants are late or leave the room and then return, do not stop the meeting to give them a personal update. Personal updates penalize the on time participants. Rather, refresh the tardy participants during the next break or pair them off with somebody and send them to the hallway for a one-on-one update, if the update cannot wait until the next break.
Consistently Demonstrate Be Here Now
To Be Here Now is infectious so lead the way. Arrive early and first. Watch your time closely and call breaks as needed. More are better so that participants can attend to their electronic updates. Most all agree that four 5-minute breaks during a morning session are better than one 20-minute break. Monitor them tightly however and do not allow leakage. Your group depends on you for their success.
Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.
Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)
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- Four Activities to Efficiently and Effectively Wrap-up a Meeting (mgrush.com/blog)
- Taking Charge of Poorly Led Meetings When You are Not the Leader (mgrush.com/blog)
- What Takes the Energy from Meetings with Good People and Intent? (mgrush.com/blog)
- Some of the Challenges and Costs Associated with Hosting Meetings (mgrush.com/blog)