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Friday, March 28, 2014

What Makes an Offsite Top-Notch?

Facilitators are inextricably linked to the success of offsite meetings. Author Kathryn Roy of the Harvard Business School’s publication Working Knowledge emphasizes that an impartial and trained facilitator ensures that each participant's point of view is heard and considered. Roy notes that the need for an effective facilitator is even more critical if the focus of the meeting includes introducing new ideas and techniques. Outside facilitators have the advantage of impartiality, but they must quickly get up to speed to learn a group’s cultural nuances, interpersonal dynamics and business goals.

JD Coaching & Consulting facilitates nonprofit board trainings, strategic planning sessions and leadership/team building retreats. Effective facilitation is essential to achieving desired outcomes at these offsite meetings. Preparation and a definitive process are also critical components of a successful meeting.

A client who recently participated in a strategic planning session commented on the attributes of a good facilitator. “Great facilitators ask good questions. For all who facilitate, the answers are in the room; for those [who] instruct, the answers are in their mind.” Interestingly, his company consults with entrepreneurial businesses on strategic execution—including strategic planning and meeting facilitation.

It is imperative for a facilitator to listen well and to pay attention to each participant's need to feel connected, valued and effective. In fact, when asked about objectives for an offsite, many respond this way: “I want to get to know other people better.” Whether it is for board orientation, strategic planning or team building, when folks go offsite to work, they want to interact in the session with each other.

Managing expectations can also influence the outcome of an executive offsite meeting. The same client said this about the strategic planning session: “[You] not only outlined the strategic process, but [you] guided the group though it with humor, patience and a sense of urgency.” His praise aligned with Kathryn Roy’s philosophy that “no toolkit of listening skills can make up for a lack of humor and warmth.”

Offsite meetings are comprised of adult learners with diverse needs and goals. An experienced facilitator needs to treat everyone equitably so that participants are comfortably engaged in the process. When all voices are heard, there is richness to the content of the day.

Do you need help facilitating your next offsite meeting? Let’s keep the conversation going!

Check out this article from Harvard Business School about effective offsite meetings.

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