As hosts to hundreds of meetings every week across our portfolio of properties, The Venue Collection teams are privileged to meet some of the best facilitators in the business. In the course of our conversations, we pick up so many valuable insights that we’re prompted to share a few gems here.
We’re particularly fascinated by the theme of positivity: and have collected some tips for maintaining energy and enthusiasm so that issues can be discussed, and outcomes reached in a spirit of friendly collaboration – and nobody in the room feels that they’re ‘just being talked at’.
Starting on the right foot
Corporate event planners were the first to introduce the concept of ice breakers to initiate conferences and meetings; we witnessed giant balls of wool being thrown across rooms, and dramas enacted in mime – but experience has shown that such activities can make some participants feel irritated, awkward or embarrassed.
For meetings that bring together different bodies or regional authorities, it can be useful to ask colleagues not to group in cliques, but instead to sit next to a stranger and take that first five minutes to introduce themselves to their new neighbour and share some information about each other’s role and perspective on the meeting.
One NHS insider tells us that there’s one failsafe way to put a smile on delegates’ faces at the start of the day, and that is for the facilitator to promise that the pace will be swift – and that they are on a mission to end the meeting before the published time. The magic words: “Let’s aim to wrap this up by 4.30” will be greeted rapturously by everyone dreading the rush hour journey home.
Fostering a collaborative spirit
The first item on any agenda should be to take a moment to recap on what the meeting hopes to achieve, and to remind participants that the aim is for everyone (emphasising the word everyone) to contribute to a discussion that will ultimately lead to a collective decision or a report on learnings from which all can benefit. Gaining positive commitment from the outset to work towards consensus in a respectful manner helps set a positive tone for the entire meeting.
The days are hopefully long gone when a single person delivered a dreary monologue to a passive audience whose minds were sliding inexorably into a comatose state. Today’s interactive meetings technology enables participants to contribute ideas and questions, answer surveys and offer comment in real time. Audience engagement platforms make it possible for delegates to post feedback anonymously – and not just on the subject under discussion – but about their experience of the event itself, so that even comments on the room temperature or the sound quality can be noted and acted-on.
In fact, attendees’ physical experience of a meeting can substantially affect their level of participation. Regular readers of TVC blogs will know that we consciously provide healthy lunchtime options to avoid mid-afternoon drowsiness. But there are other useful hacks to consider here, such as getting up and moving around.
Osteopaths warn that sitting anywhere for longer than 15 minutes is bad for the spine, so for attendees to remain in their seats for lengthy periods will negatively impact their comfort and attention. TVC have invested in the green spaces surrounding all of our properties and when the weather permits, our guests have the chance to grab fresh air breaks amidst trees and flowers.
But if it’s snowing outside, our venues can offer plenty of communal breakout areas inside their properties. As well as benefitting from a change of scene and some informal networking, the simple act of walking around and taking a few deep breaths can help clear the mind and recharge the body. Even as they approach that last session of the day, delegates will be able to refresh and refocus.
And facilitators, don’t forget: if you did announce at the start of the day your intention of ending the meeting early, be sure to build that promise into your timekeeping. Chances are your participants will leave the meeting feeling energised, positive and pleased with their active contribution to the day.
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