Looking back & looking ahead
Five facilitation lessons from 2022 and a preview of my 2023 efforts.
Approximate reading time: 5-6 minutes; 1226 words.
Let me briefly review a few facilitation lessons (re)learned in 2022 and preview my 2023 Facilitate Better efforts.
Five 2022 Lessons (Re)Learned
1. Hotel Hiring Still Lags
A lot of my speaking and facilitation is at hotels with my client typically interfacing directly with their convention services rep. Because these properties often are still understaffed post-pandemic, clients consistently encountered inexperienced people at the helm, slower response times, and a lack of attention to detail.
2023 action item: Be even more specific in 2023 with the details that matter most and proof hotel event orders even more thoroughly for omissions and errors.
2. Let There Be (More and Better) Light
When speaking or facilitating at a major conference, it is not unusual to be assigned an individual room sectioned off from a larger hotel ballroom. These rooms often have chandeliers, as well as perimeter wall lighting on the unshared walls. Controls for both typically offer some limited preset levels.
In December, I encountered a hotel meeting room anomaly: only overhead LED can lights from the ceiling, 28 feet above the floor. You know that hazy visage that occurs when headlights try to pierce a dense fog? Imagine that environment for a 3.5-hour workshop and you’ll understand why I could literally feel the energy drain from the room throughout the session and I left with an intense headache.
2023 action item: Ensure client inquires during meeting room selection about number and type of lighting sources, as well as adjustment options. Only sign off on rooms with appropriate lighting.
3. Meaningful Incentives Work!
Getting a high percentage of session evaluations completed is a common challenge. After experimenting throughout the year, I’ve found my solution: participants only get the link to the PDF of my slides by completing the evaluation. I simply include the link on the thank you page when the survey is completed. Evaluation response rate is now typically 85-90%.
What I didn’t anticipate is that some clients would not evaluate the sessions I lead for them, putting a kink in my best-laid plans. I struggle to understand why they seemingly don’t care about feedback, but I most certainly do.
2023 action item: Include in all 2023 contracts a clause requiring dissemination of an evaluation within 15 days of the session and results provided to me within 30 days.
To make it as easy as possible for this important follow-up effort, I always offer to both develop the evaluation questions and even set up the online survey.
4. Session Previews Are Worth the Effort
I’ve inconsistently provided session preview PDFs for both meetings and workshops over the years. As you’ll see in the sample preview below, these go beyond a typical agenda and include highlights from any advance surveys, reviews of some resources people might find of interest, and a list of the core questions they’ll likely be asked during the session
In 2022 I provided previews for every meeting or workshop that involved pre-registration. I also improved their content, design, and overall quality.
In the evaluations, many participants noted that the in-depth previews were appreciated and helped them feel better prepared to contributed in the sessions. They often also commented that they could see their input reflected in the actually session design.
2023 action item: Experiment with adding short audio or video files to session previews when they will add value to participants’ preparation and the overall experience.
5. Periodically Rigorously Interrogate Every Design Choice
One of the benefits of speaking on similar content repeatedly is you learn over time what works. Those items often then become a staple in your repertoire when designing a session.
For my last half-day facilitation skills workshop in 2022, I decided to ruthlessly interrogate every single content and format choice, as well as collateral materials (slides, learning worksheets, et al) to identify opportunities to:
introduce greater clarity,
update examples and references,
proof for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and
further increase connections and cohesiveness among each individual content segment.
Doing so was similar to taking your house down to the studs for a home reno. The effort was worth it as it produced almost three dozen tweaks and major enhancements, as well as improved flow and continuity between various segments.
What to Expect from Facilitate Better in 2023
I’ve always been a proponent in calibrating intentional action with organic growth and pursuit of interesting possibilities. Here are my current plans for the year ahead:
Publish three or four monthly Substack essays, including one resource review/takeaways post, one “how to” series post, and another essay or two on a broader facilitation-related topic. My plan is to keep all of the content free despite the significant time involved in producing it.
Complete a few resources previously mentioned: a couple of train-the trainer kits for activities or formats you can use in meetings and workshops and an icebreakers/priming activities resource in some form (ebook, PDF, et al).
Combine select Facilitate Better essays into a resource PDF with discussion questions, worksheets, et al that individuals and organizations could use in their own efforts.
Research and explore possible video formats for some of my content for self-guided learning and/or others’ use in their meeting and workshop efforts.
My #1 priority is to get more facilitation content in front of more people for whom it could make a difference, particularly in published articles or as a podcast guest. This isn’t about self-promotion. I do such a limited number of speaking or facilitation engagements that more exposure isn’t really necessary. This is about helping more people facilitate better. For example:
The California Society of Association Executives just published an updated version of my essay on “anyone can—and everyone should—make facilitative contributions” in its winter issue of The Executive, their digital member magazine.
A new version of my post about facilitating when you’re not truly neutral appears in the 2023 Associations Now Board Brief: A Quick Guide to Volunteer Leadership publication from the American Society of Association Executives, soon to hit people’s desks or desktops.
Other ways to help
Read and use this content in your own facilitation efforts.
Continue to amplify this content via your social channels and in other media and settings, as well as encouraging others to subscribe,
Share with appropriate parties my interest in (and availability for) podcast appearances and contributing facilitation content to digital or print publications.
License reprints of Facilitate Better content for your publications, programs, or leadership training guidebooks and manuals. I’m happy to customize the content for a nominal fee.
Bring me in for a customized half- or full-day facilitation skills workshop. I have capacity for a few more sessions this year. You can co-sponsor a session with one or more organizations to share the expense. The sessions are quite popular with association volunteers and staff. If you’re a for profit company, sponsoring a session for select clients you is a great gift and investment in their professional development.
Message me about any of these opportunities or email any situations you’d like to see me address in future “how to handle” posts.
© Facilitate Better and Jeffrey Cufaude, 2023. All rights reserved.
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