When to Hire an Outside Facilitator

The cost and benefit analysis of hiring outside help

facilitation richmond virginia consulting

How many times have you been in the following situation? You attended a meeting to address an important and time sensitive question, opportunity, or crisis. The meeting ran over 2 hours, there were multiple points during the meeting where you literally had no idea what was happening, your stomach was twisting in hunger, you felt totally depleted, and worst of all there was no resolution.

I’ve been involved with nonprofit and community work for many years, and I can tell you that I’ve been there. Many times. Actually, when I think about the amount of time that I have spent in meetings or retreats like that I get a little twitchy. We’ve all been wasting way too much of each other’s time for the amount of important work we need to do. Our time is too valuable to not make the most of our precious time together.

5 Key Questions

When you are charged with pulling together a meeting, a retreat, or an important conversation you should immediately ask the following questions:

  1. What is our facilitation plan?
  2. Is this conversation so juicy, important, or contested that we need to bring in an external trained facilitator to prep and lead us through the process?
  3. Does our group include people that need extra support to ensure they reach their optimal level of productivity?
  4. Is it in the organization’s best interest that everyone be fully present in the meeting, making it unreasonable to expect someone internally to take on a facilitation role?
  5. It is disadvantageous to have someone so close to the issue or decision leading the conversation – are they able to lead without bias?

The role of a facilitator is larger than simply making sure the group moves through the agenda in a timely way. A good facilitator will anticipate rough spots in your proposed agenda and craft an agenda that’s responsive to the needs and cultural norms of the group. They will pick up on the emotions and body expressions of the people who may or may not speak up when asked. Most importantly, a good facilitator will make sure you take breaks, press through the difficult conversations, and keep your eye on the purpose of your meeting.

I get it, facilitators cost money, and sometimes you feel like they will be more work than they are worth. But we all know a meeting gone awry can end up taking on a life of its own and it takes an unreasonable amount of time to recover and get back on track. Investing in a trained, outside facilitator is one of the best ways to say, “Your time is valuable and it’s important to this organization/company that we use it wisely. We know when we are able to harness this group’s very best thinking and ideas our work benefits.”

If you have a stressful or really important meeting coming up, and think you could benefit from an outside facilitator, we are comfortable navigating the hard conversations.  We can even make them fun and creative if that feels appropriate.

And we always promise to end the meeting on time.