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Facilitator: Our energy matters

Think about the last meeting you facilitated. Then think about the last meeting you attended as a participant. What was your energy like as a facilitator? As a meeting participant? Did you leave the meetings feeling energized and ready to take action or completely drained and exhausted?  As facilitators, we cannot underestimate the importance of our energy when we are leading discussions – small or large. Join me this week we consider 3 ways to increase or maintain our energy when facilitating a group.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of facilitating an in-person meeting of approximately 60 people and it was SO much fun! Facilitation is one of my favorite things to do anyway, but this meeting was particularly special. We were able to bring together partners and friends who haven’t seen each other in a very long time as well as knew people who were just getting to know who we were.  I even commented that it was like being at my wedding because there were so many people I wanted to have real conversations with but just didn’t have enough time. We had a fantastic and engaging discussion for over two hours without a break! And at the end of the meeting, several folks stayed to talk with one another for another hour. Why did this meeting go so well? Why did people stick around without a break?  Energy! As the facilitator/leader, I was responsible for modeling and encouraging positive energy throughout the discussion. I also shared energy with the rest of the meeting participants and it was contagious…not in a scary way my public health friends. 🙂   So what do you do to improve your energy when facilitating a meeting?

  • Prepare. Know your agenda, create talking points, consider guiding principles and find out who will be attending the meeting. Get rest, eat well, exercise, pray and consider what you can do to get ready physically, emotionally and spiritually for the meeting.  If you are an extrovert, you may want to spend some time with people you enjoy before the meeting to increase your energy for the meeting. If you are an introvert, you will probably need to spend some significant alone time or one-on-one time to prepare so that you don’t get drained before the meeting begins. Get to the meeting early enough to check out the room layout and be sure it’s conducive to supporting a high-energy and engaging conversation. Visualize how you want the meeting to go and what you need to do to be sure you are energized in order to contribute to the success of the meeting. 
  • Relate. Do you know the meeting attendees well? Are they mostly people you have worked with in the past or are they new colleagues? One of the best ways to bring energy to a meeting is to treat the meeting attendees as friends – either friends you have known for a long time or friends you will get to know soon. When we think of people as friends and colleagues or partners, it becomes much easier to maintain a high level of energy when facilitating the discussion. As I mentioned during my story, I felt like I was at my wedding again because there were so many friends I wanted to catch up with during the meeting.
  • Redirect. Sometimes people will disagree and it can become contentious. Show appreciation for the honesty and openness of the attendees’ perspectives. Find ways to move the conversation toward a positive resolution rather than an energy-draining meeting hijack. If it appears the conversation should really be with just one or two people, encourage them to have this conversation in a smaller group setting at another time.  Find ways to acknowledge the concerns and challenges without letting them impact the rest of the meeting. This is probably the most difficult part of facilitating and maintaining energy. As the facilitator, it’s important for you to avoid getting caught up in the passionate debate. You need to acknowledge the challenges, validate the people and find ways to redirect the conversation to some sort of resolution so that the rest of the group doesn’t become discouraged or overwhelmed. 

As you consider facilitating your next meeting, what will you do to prepare, relate or redirect the conversation to maintain positive energy? 

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Photo by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

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