The Secret to a Strong Opening

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    How you start a facilitated session is critical to the overall success of the session. Conventional wisdom states that a good meeting should start with the agenda. The reason typically given is that the agenda answers the question, “What are we going to do.” However, Smart Facilitators know that participants in a facilitated session need answers to several questions before the agenda is discussed.

    • Why are we having this session?
    • What do we need to have accomplished when we are done?
    • What is our role in the decision-making?
    • Why should I invest the time?

    Smart Facilitators answer these questions, and more, in the first fifteen minutes of a facilitated session.

    From my book, The Secrets of Facilitation 2nd Edition:

    Secret #13 – The Secret to a Strong Opening

    Inform, excite, empower and involve in the first 15 minutes.

    In the first fifteen minutes of a facilitated meeting, you must inform, excite, empower and involve the participants to get them focused and engaged from the beginning of the session.

    The opening sets the tone, pace and expectation for the rest of the day. Your opening words should cover four key points: inform, excite, empower and involve (IEEI).

    • Inform the participants about the overall purpose of the meeting through the session objective.
    • Excite them about the process by giving them a clear vision of the overall result to be achieved and the benefits to them.
    • Empower them by discussing the important role they play in the process, the reason they were selected or the authority that has been given to them.
    • Involve them as early as possible by identifying their personal objectives, the issues that must be covered, the challenges that must be overcome or some other topic that contributes to the overall goal of the session.

    You can consider using the IEEI as an outline for your opening. The IEEI opening is a powerful tool for making sure your participants understand why they are there, what they are trying to achieve, and the benefits to them. It helps get them focused on the session, and committed to the purpose.

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    For more resources, see the Library topic Facilitation.

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    Certified Master Facilitator Michael Wilkinson is the CEO and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies, Inc., The Facilitation Company and author of the new The Secrets of Facilitation 2nd Edition, The Secrets to Masterful Meetings, and The Executive Guide to Facilitating Strategy. Leadership Strategies is a global leader in facilitation services, providing companies with dynamic professional facilitators who lead executive teams and task forces in areas like strategic planning, issue resolution, process improvement and others. The company is also a leading provider of facilitation training in the United States.