Four Reasons to Hire a Facilitator for Your Next Meeting

Four Reasons to Hire a Facilitator for Your Next Meeting

Have you ever been stuck in a meeting that seems to go on forever and you are sure that you have been talking about the same very narrow point for an hour? We have all been there. While working with a facilitator may not make sense for your weekly team meetings, facilitators may be able to streamline and improve problem solving in meetings that discuss complex change or bring together diverse groups of people.

Maybe you are writing a strategic planning document with people from several departments. Maybe you are looking to create a public advisory committee for a specific issue or initiative. Maybe you are reviewing and amending staff policies. Whatever the need, as soon as multiple people come from different backgrounds with diverse experiences and preferences, it becomes challenging to coalesce ideas to make decisions about next steps in processes.

What are some common problems in meetings?

  • Only a few loud voices are heard

  • The meeting goes on for longer than it was planned or is unnecessarily prolonged

  • Some people may be participating in the meeting that the content does not concern – perceived as a waste of time

  • Agenda items are skipped or missed due to it going over time

  • Objectives are not met

  • Complex meetings can exacerbate tensions over contentious issues

Luckily, facilitators can help with all of the problems listed above.

  1. Meeting participants may feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts, feelings, and preferences when there is a person running the meeting who is not invested in the topic/outcome.

    As the host organization, you likely have existing working relationships with those you are intending to have a meeting with – either internal co-workers, staff, or external stakeholders that you engage with. Participants in the meeting may not feel they can fully express their thoughts and opinions to those who they work with directly if they perceive that their thoughts would fall on deaf ears or have consequences in their workplace. Those participants may feel more comfortable when a third-party facilitator is leading and capturing the meeting because the facilitator does not have pre-existing biases or notions about any particular participant or outcome of the meeting. Simply put, the facilitator is there to guide and capture the meeting as it happens

  2. Facilitators allow the host organization to engage in the process as a participant.

    Facilitating a meeting may be an onerous process for some who is not trained in facilitation, and even if they are, it could take away from their own participation and benefit from the meeting process. The host organization may gain value from participating at the same level as their invited guests by being fully engaged in conversations instead of writing down meeting minutes or handling logistics such as handing out post-it notes for an activity.

  3. Facilitators are objective.

    Third-party facilitators help participants feel as though there is objectivity in how the meeting is being carried out. The role of the facilitator is to guide the group through a series of topics in an engaging way and document the contents of the meeting through an objective lens. The benefit of the facilitator is that they are not invested in the outcome in the same way that the host organization or the meeting participants are. A facilitator comes in and uses their skills and tools to provide an arena for participants to work through issues and content, in order to reach the goal of the meeting.

  4. Facilitators keep the tone of the meeting at an appropriate level and ensures no one voice, or perspective is dominating the conversation.

    Facilitators are good with people. They sense when things are getting heated or people are falling asleep in a room and can quickly make judgement calls to diffuse a situation or draw people’s attention back to the task at hand. Often when meetings become tense, people become uncomfortable and disengage as a means of self-preservation and to avoid conflict. This is problematic in two ways. The first is that the people you have invited to the meeting are all there for a reason – to provide their input – so if some of these people become uncomfortable and disengage, you may risk losing that valuable input you brought them for in the first place. Second, the individuals who may be making the conversation tense could become the sole contributor to the discussion, elevating one or two points and in effect drowning out the rest. Facilitators have the tools to address tense conversations and re-engage the group by helping everyone move the conversation along.

Next time you are uncertain about how to plan a complex meeting or series of meetings, consider hiring a facilitator.


Bradley Schielefacilitation