Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts July 1998
Short Cuts:WHO NEEDS FACILITATORS?
An outsider steps in: Alice Cochran
First, clear your mind of any preconceptions.
Imagine lying on a comfortable leather couch. The lights are dimmed
to a soothing glow. You're relaxed. Now, it's time to discuss
freely your professional frustrations, setbacks and visions with
someone you have just met - someone who will attempt to guide you
to some solutions.
Now imagine it's your board of directors sharing that couch
together, asked to do the same exercise. Now you've got some idea
of what it's like to hire a facilitator for your meeting.
Just as some people scoff at the thought of therapy, groups
might be wary of hiring an outsider. After all, facilitators have
to be intimate with your group's organizational hang-ups,
communication problems or other potentially touchy subjects. They
will usually design the meeting agenda and see it through on site -
even stepping in to silence a talker or coax ideas out of
Yet many realize that bringing an objective professional into
their midst could be just what the doctor ordered. The Society of
Corporate Meeting Professionals, for instance, wanted a "fresh set
of eyes" to analyze its current state and look toward the future,
says Dori Eskenazi, an SCMP director and public affairs specialist
for the Chicago-based John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation. The Atlanta-based association also wanted a level
playing field among participants during discussions. "Facilitators
are able to set up rules for conversation that wouldn't normally
exist with this group of people," Eskenazi says. "No one wants to
offend, but that can hamper the process."
"A good facilitator sees the process and the dynamics of the
group without having a vested interest in the end result," adds
Alice Cochran, who runs Cochran Consulting and Facilitating in San
Rafael, Calif. "They just have to make sure there is a result."
Facilitators may be called in when an organization reaches a
turning point: It's either approaching dire straits or tremendous
growth, says Dolores Bopp Potterton, principal at Bopp &
Associates in Naperville, Ill. In either case, Potterton's
challenge is to help the group define and achieve its goals.
Finding a good facilitator is as critical as finding a good
therapist. Planners should not only consider experience and
qualifications but the questions the facilitator asks when
interviewed. Conversations should prompt the planner to uncover
issues that hadn't been realized, says Potterton.
Once hired, a good facilitator will conduct in-depth research
about an organization and interview participants about their
concerns. A detailed follow-up should also be part of the package.
Potterton schedules three post-meeting visits - one, three and six
months after the initial meeting - to see that decisions made are
being put into practice.
For more information, contact the 1,000-member International
Association of Facilitators, based in St. Paul, Minn., at (612)
891-3541, or visit the group's Web site (www.iaf-world.org).
IF YOUR JOB WAS AN AMUSEMENT PARK RIDE, WHAT WOULD IT BE
"'Batman, The Ride' at Six Flags Great America. You're
strapped in and have absolutely no control. You go upside down,
twirl around....There's lots of movement and it's very quick."
Meetings & Events Manager
"It's a roller coaster. Lots of highs and lows, crises
and fun, challenges and frights. Most of all, you never know what's
Pamela Fischer Lackland, CMP
Director Meetings & Conventions
Electronic Industry Alliance
"The Magnum 2000 ride at Cedar Point Amusement Park in
Ohio. It hits 65 mph and has a 100-foot drop. It's fast, it turns
the world upside down and it's a lot of fun - just like my job.
Business & Financial Manager
Arizona Department of Health Services
Office of Oral Health
Back to Current Issue index
| Back to Short Cuts indexM&C
| Events Calendar
| Incentive News
| Meetings Market
| CVB Links
| Reader Survey
| Hot Dates
| Contact M&C