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Avoiding Client-Facilitator Jeopardy by Playing 20 Questions

In Facilitating Business, High Touch on January 29, 2011 at 8:11 pm

There’s hidden magic in the Jeopardy-inspired technique of answering in the form of a question. Knowing the right question will advance you to the next round of involvement with your potential clients.  It is the skilled facilitator who knows to ask the right question.

I cannot recall the number of times when a potential client called me and asked, “Are you available to facilitate a meeting on ____?” Granted this is an excellent question for as the saying goes: “timing is everything.”  But for all parties to enter into a meaningful business relationship, several other questions must be posed and answered.  From this initial Q&A session, a successful event is more likely to emerge than not.

Asking the facilitator if they are available is an excellent first question.

Beware the client who asks for a proposal without being able to describe what it is they need or what your specific role will be in meeting their needs.  Similarly for our dear clients, beware the facilitator who jumps first without asking, “How high?”  Facilitation is an art and it is in the art of Q&A during the design phase of a meeting, workshop, or executive off-site that is most critical.

Here’s where we can learn from the game shows. In order to give our clients our very best effort, we need to ask questions and gather enough information to effectively scope the problem and at least identify the key stakeholders.  What follows are 20 Questions that I’ve used over the past 15+ years to facilitate the meeting / workshop design process.

1. Planned date and duration of the meeting:

2. Subject of Meeting:

3. What significant business objective does this meeting support?

4. What does the meeting contribute to this business objective or your organization’s mission?

5. Describe your expectations for this meeting.

6. What do you envision as the deliverables of this meeting?

7. Who will chair the meeting?

8. I’m assuming that I will facilitate the meeting, but are their participants who’ll play key leadership roles?

9. What are your measures of success for this meeting?

10. What are the measures of success for the meeting owner? For the participants? For others who might have a view or interest in the meeting outcome?

11. By when will we — working together — finalize the agenda?

12. When will the list of participants be agreed upon?

13. Who has confirmed that the participants are the right people to achieve the objectives of this meeting?

14. Who will inform the participants about the meeting?

15. What “read ahead” material or information will be circulated in advance to prepare the participants?

16. Who is responsible for equipment and facilities?

17. Who will open the meeting to set the stage and/or prepare the participants?

18. Does the agenda for this meeting include a survey of participants’ satisfaction w/ the meeting?

19. Who is responsible for follow-up actions from the meeting?

20. Are there any other issues which might affect the success of the meeting? … In other words, did I forget anything?

Note that there are no simple yes-no answers. One usually cannot answer with animal-vegetable-or-mineral. And yes this blog post is bigger than a bread box.  By playing 20 questions we are likely to all become winners.

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