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Can you remember the last time you were in a productive meeting, focus group, or facilitated session? One where everyone was engaged, concerns were raised and addressed, and progress was made? Well, you may find it difficult to recall because it is rarely the case. More often than not, sessions drag on and on, with people talking over each other, attitudes clashing, and no clear progress being made. It’s unfortunate, but facilitated sessions are often doomed before they even start.
So, how do we ensure our meetings are productive and successful? The best place to start is with the opening. To set the tone for the time you and your attendees will spend together, it is essential to open a facilitated session properly. It’s at the start of the meeting where people begin to feel comfortable with each other and guards are let down. It’s also the time when everyone agrees on how the group will govern themselves while working together to accomplish a goal.
For a more experienced facilitator, opening a course can appear effortless, and with practice it can become second nature. For the less experienced facilitator, here are eight essential steps to open a meeting or session with success:
1. Conduct an icebreaker
2. Introduce yourself and clarify your role
3. Clarify the roles of others in the session
4. Appoint roles if they have not already been assigned
5. Review housekeeping items
6. Establish ground rules
7. Review the agenda
8. Identify the objective(s) of the session
Seems like common sense, right? Eight simple, yet dynamic, steps everyone should follow to guarantee optimal performance from their groups. Unfortunately, the significant impact of these steps is often overlooked. A solid session opening is like laying the foundation of a house. If not done properly, serious complications will arise later.
To learn more on how to open your sessions, improve your facilitation skills, and ensure your meetings are meaningful and productive, check out our Facilitation Skills for New Facilitators workshop.