Not another boring panel!! If that thought goes through your mind at every meeting or conference it's time to get radical. As the moderator or meeting planner, you can dust off the cobwebs of complacency and create extreme meetings that will have everybody talking.
While traditionally, speaking has been more or less a monologue, delivering a seminar requires a different set of skills. One of those skills is facilitation. The public speaker needs to engage and elicit information from the audience and help them make connections to their work environments through discussion.
You're at a meeting. It could be a company status meeting, a networking event, or a formal presentation. The person takes the floor and suddenly your eyes glaze over. You start to yawn and fidget in your seat. A team member lets out an exasperated sigh. Two people are making eye contact as if to say, "Get a load of this". You wonder "What the heck is this person talking about?" Will they ever get to the point? That's what happens when a speaker is unclear. The presentation loses impact and the message, if it's heard at all, is quickly lost. What remains is a negative perception. It's not the message-it's the way you communicate the message that determines whether it's heard and accepted.
To communicate with clarity, here are four tips that you can apply to any situation.
Know your outcome. While this sounds obvious, it's not. I coach many leaders and business professionals and they're not always clear about their expectations..And that's why the message is unfocused. To gain crystal clear focus, start with your outcome. At the end of the presentation, what do you expect? Agreement? A sale, a next appointment?
State your purpose. Your purpose is not always the same as your outcome. For example, your outcome may be to close a sale in one meeting. But you wouldn't want to say, "Today, my purpose is to sell you my product." A purpose statement is a sentence that clarifies what you'll be doing in the meeting. "My purpose is to demonstrate the importance of cyber security and give you some tips on how to safe guard your data" Don't assume the listeners know the purpose of the meeting.
Present a visual agenda. People need a roadmap and the agenda will keep you on track. When you start to go off on a tangent, look down at the agenda and come back to the topic. Be sure to assign a time for each agenda item. Timing each item will help you monitor yourself.
Cite an example, not a story. Storytelling is powerful, but if you tend to be verbose, use short examples instead. When making a point, follow it with "for example," or "to illustrate...". Giving examples will connect the points for the listeners. Use the PEP formula. Make a point, give an example, underscore the point.
If you tend to be long winded, use these 4 steps in your next presentation and you'll speak with clarity.
With 11 million meetings daily (3 billion yearly), it's not surprising that people feel they attend too many meetings. And most of them are unproductive. That equates to 31 hours of lost productivity per month or four days. The starting point for improving meeting effectiveness begins with the facilitator.
Here are 10 facilitation tips to make you a better facilitator:
Clear Purpose. Facilitation begins before the meeting. Determine the reason for the meeting. Is it to solve a problem, develop innovative ideas, select a theme for an event? Begin with the end in mind. Without a clear purpose, your meeting will go nowhere.
Start on Time. Don't wait for latecomers. You'll set a negative precedent and you'll end late. To get people be on time, try starting the meeting at an odd time like 8:57 a.m. People will notice the odd time and know you mean business.
Encourage Creative Thinking. The facilitator needs to create a safe space to share ideas. Don't evaluate or reject contributions. Allow for off-the-wall thinking without judgment. The best solutions are not always the tried and true.
Clarify, Paraphrase and Probe. These powerful listening skills are essential tools for any facilitator. Clarify by saying, "Tell me more." "Can you be specific?" We may think we're talking about the same thing when we say the word, CAR. But you're seeing a Volvo and someone else is seeing a Bentley. Paraphrase before responding. This is a listening check as well as an acknowledgement that the person was heard. Finally, probing is a skill that allows the facilitator to dig deeper and get to the underlying issue.
Summarize Main Points. Too many meetings and presentations end without a conclusion. Effective facilitators provide internal summaries before moving on to the next agenda item and at the end of the meeting. Internal summaries can be a check for resistance. Make sure the group understands and is aligned before moving on. The job of a facilitator is to connect the dots.
Use a Flipchart and Post it Notes. A flipchart or whiteboard is a facilitator's best resource. The flipchart allows you to capture information in the moment. It's also a way of controlling the group dynamic. When the discussion is disrupted, ask people to write questions on the post it notes and put them on the parking lot (flipchart). Later, the facilitator can answer them.
Remain Objective. Never drive your own agenda.The role of the facilitator is to access information from the group and to remain neutral.
Keep Moving in the Direction of the Problem. Write the problem statement for all to see. When the problem is clear, you'll be able to direct the discussion in the right direction while still being impartial.This prevents the group from losing focus.
Control the Discussion. A facilitator is the orchestra leader and the participants are the musicians. Questions are the baton. Just like the conductor knows how to bring up the string section and lower the brass, a skilled facilitator uses questions to guide and direct the discussion.
Keep a List of Action Items. Without action items, things will fall through the cracks. A good facilitator will assign attendees a role, a responsibility, and a deadline. To ensure accountability, it's wise for the facilitator to follow up before the next meeting.
Good facilitation skills will increase meeting productivity, lead to more creative solutions, and are essential for managing group dynamics. The facilitator as leader must remember to check the ego at the door. When it comes to facilitation, it's not about you. It's about them!
What has worked for you as a facilitator? What are your biggest challenges?
Back in September, I wrote about When Celebrity Speakers Fail to Deliver. This post generated interest and was re-posted as an article on the The International Association of Franchisees and Dealers' website. UK-based Business Growth Specialist Andy Gwynn commented that he liked my article and referenced his own list - The Top Things to Consider When Booking Your Keynote Speaker. I think this is an excellent list, so I'm sharing it with you.
How do you know that you have got the right speaker for the job?
1. What experience do they have on the subject that you want them to speak on?
2. Have you seen video testimonials of clients or attendees that have seen and heard them speak?
3. How detailed is their fact find of you when you speak with them?
- Do they ask you about your audience and what message /content/value you want them to deliver in their keynote?
4. Do they send you a comprehensive “speaker booking form” to help them help you get the very best value from booking them?
5. Do they ask about your organization's culture and the overall message or theme of your event?
6. What physical “takeaways” do they offer to give your audience, such as documents, downloads, books, cd’s, DVD’s, etc?
7. How focused on you and your audience are they compared to focusing on their needs, fees, expenses etc?
8. Can you speak with previous clients of theirs?
9. Do they ask you about your event and offer suggestions that might help?
- Like timings, sound and AV specifications, marketing.
10. Do they offer to stay behind after their presentation to interact with your audience or are they just going to “grab their money and run?
11. Do they offer any sort of follow up / contact or support for you or your audience?
12. How confident are you that they will “under promise and over deliver”?
Karen was newly appointed to her position in finance, where she was responsible for managing and keeping the department on budget. Soft-spoken and petite, Karen had a hard time making herself heard during meetings, as her aggressive team shouted over her and challenged her when she questioned their figures...