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Good facilitation: One of the greatest superpowers in business

How was the last meeting you went to? What did you think of that last workshop you attended? How about that training day?

Was it productive? Did you achieve all that you set out to achieve beforehand? Did everyone get to share their point of view? Did you finish on time and get to your next appointment without a problem?

If you can genuinely answer yes to the above questions, then you are a lucky individual my friend and I am much in awe of whoever was running that session.

If, however, you are like the rest of us and your last meeting/workshop/training session didn't go to plan then it may be that the facilitation (or lack of it) was one of the main reasons it flopped.

Don't worry, this is all too common so if you find a good facilitator then we suggest you wrap them up in cotton wool and wheel them out for your business' most important sessions. If you don't have any, then hire some; here are the key attributes that we believe make a great facilitator:

Preparation - a great facilitator will have thought through every detail from the flow of the agenda, the way to run different parts of the meeting, the layout of the room, the tools and techniques to use, the style they are going to adopt and much more. They will have run through the session multiple times and be prepared for all eventualities.

At Shiageto Consulting, we challenge ourselves to 'war game' the facilitation of every key session so that we are on top of all the details and ready for anything.

Engagement - too many times, meetings are very samey so attendees are lost along the way or don't throw themselves into it from the start. Other times there's too much talking when there might be better ways to bring about the objective you need. A great facilitator uses different approaches to set the right tone and make sure everyone is fully engaged.

At Shiageto, we pride ourselves on having over 101 games, energisers and ice-breakers to keep things progressing (how about top trumps for prioritisation, anyone? or kung-fu punctuation to get people back into the groove after a lunch?). We believe sessions should be fun as well as productive.

Involvement - it's all too easy to let the most dominant people in a group hog the limelight or for quiet people to step back. A great facilitator will make sure everyone is involved in the discussions, that their points of view are welcomed and that the group can reach agreement as much as possible.

At Shiageto, we incorporate all the latest research on how to get the most out of teams in brainstorming and make sure to facilitate sessions so that everyone gets a say (it can be so easily overlooked when often all you need are more questions rather than statements all the time).

Ability to read the room and flex accordingly - appreciating how people are feeling is vital to ensure that the session is resonating and that you are getting the best out of participants. A great facilitator will not only spot the mood of the room but also the individual behaviours and adapt as required to overcome these.

At Shiageto, our team are all selected for the high EQ and ability to quickly (and unobtrusively) spot who is bored/distracted (phones are a giveaway), who is defensive (body language is a clue), who is confused, who doesn't get on with who, etc. They are experienced to use these 'tells' to adapt the session as required and are trained in a variety of styles to help with these situations.

Keeping things flowing - it's too easy for a session to get bogged down (people really love to talk) which can mean that not all topics are covered or even worse, that the session deteriorates into discussions that aren't relevant. A great facilitator will be able to give attendees just enough time to discuss topics whilst puncturing any tangential conversations.

At Shiageto, we believe the key to keeping things flowing are clear objectives for the session, an agenda that complements this, regular signposting ("we are talking about this part of the agenda now"), the use of a 'parking lot' and plenty of summary and playback.

Attention to detail - finally, what can make a great facilitator into a superhero facilitator are the small things: is their handwriting legible? do they use language everyone understands? do they know how to use all the technology in the room? [nobody wants to be the school teacher who doesn't know how to use the video player!!] have they brought biscuits? do they articulate timings throughout?...the list goes on

At Shiageto, our years of experience have taught us many tricks that mean the attention to detail is up there...did you know for example, that pulling a post-it note from the side rather than the bottom will mean that it doesn't curl when you put it on a wall? No need to thank us for that tip!!

Right, that's enough talk about facilitation. If you want a good facilitator to help you run an important meeting, develop a strategy, design a product, fix a process, solve a problem or just about anything then hopefully you know who you can call...

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