I’ll tell you, honestly, I am nervous before every facilitation. The usual advice for controlling facilitator jitters is to prepare well. Well, that’s true but I’ve seen plenty of facilitators fall in love with their meeting strategy and become controlling to get the audience to, “Stick to my plan!” So, how do you prepare well and not let that pre-meeting work tempt us into iron-handed facilitation?
While I am nervous before the meeting, the second I say, “Welcome…” all my nerves go out the door. You’d think it’s the reverse, I would be even more nervous once the meeting is underway. After all, unexpected things happen in meetings that can be a worry. I calm down because once the meeting starts, that says to me, “You’re prepared. You’ve done your homework, now it’s time for the audience to engage.”
When the meeting gets rolling I get into a zone and I’m mentally prepared to change my focus from myself to the audience. Meeting planning is about me and what I think needs to be done. Meeting leadership is about the audience and what they want to get done. It is easier to let go of attachment to my plan with the mindset, “It’s about the audience, not me!” That way I can tune in on the exciting energy that comes from helping a group define success for itself.
I’m prepared, but not over-prepared. I’m prepared in the sense that I know about the group, their challenges, and their objectives for the meeting. But what I could not prepare for is a conversation with the whole audience about what they want. I have been thinking about it, but I could not prepare for that conversation. That mindset makes me open to anything that’s going to happen at the moment. And that is where I want to be, ‘in the moment’ accepting that anything can happen but with all my pre-meeting preparation behind me to fall back on. I love that feeling that anything can happen because often that is where creativity from a group can happen.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not want to be off the cuff and not prepare anything. Instead, I’m thinking, these people are showing up and giving their valuable time because they want to accomplish something. So, I can show my nervousness the exit door by being prepared but also by accepting that everything does not have to go exactly as I planned. That’s when great moments in meetings can occur but it is also a way to engage everyone in the meeting room.
If a meeting does not go as planned, don’t be too hard on yourself. There is a reason everyone is in the meeting—but sometimes the real reason is discovered only after the meeting is underway. And embrace the awkwardness, embrace who you are, and embrace these unexpected, live moments in a meeting. It will be a better experience for you and the audience.
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