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How Effective Facilitation Was Consistently Delivered Across 7 Tailored Events For 5 Clients In 4 Weeks

JA Consulting (JAC) is experienced in providing highly effective workshops to clients. However, when one of our leading consultants had to design and deliver seven tailored events in one month, we knew effective facilitation would be key and would need an incredibly efficient and clinical approach to preparation and planning logistics. Here’s how it was done and the lessons learnt.

Before we get into the detail, we’d like to highlight our utmost priority is to ensure that every client always receives exceptional service, so we will never take on more than we can handle. But sometimes even our extensive experience and wholehearted dedication is still stretched, and that’s when the importance of meticulous planning and logistical awareness highlighted in this blog comes to the fore!

The challenge

Having delivered thousands of workshops over 30+ years – helping our clients gain clarity about what sits under key organisational challenges and giving practical options for how these can be addressed – you could say that, to us, facilitation is embedded in how we operate.

Recently, however, one of our lead consultants faced an intensifying schedule of workshops, having to deliver seven workshops for five different clients in multiple locations within one month. With no let-up in other client delivery and internal JAC business management, this was a real challenge, but challenge is what we relish and will always embrace to support our clients.

      • How do you consistently deliver quality when everything is a priority and time is not on your side?
      • How do you not let clients down when they have certain expectations?
      • How do you continue delivering beyond the generic components that make facilitation go well, tailoring each workshop to the client’s needs?

These were the questions that our consultant faced. Effective facilitation of seven separate events, ticking all the boxes for all five clients was going to be challenging. A clinical approach to the logistics of the events was essential to ensure the consultant worked efficiently and effectively.


Our consultant said….

“As the scale and intensity of the collection of workshops crystallised, among my thoughts and emotions was a slight sense of fear and panic: panic about possibly not having sufficient time to prepare; and fear of letting clients down.”


The solution

With seven different workshops, all having to be planned and prepared for within a tight timeframe, we had to hone and focus on what really delivers the value in event facilitation to ensure we delivered the same quality to all clients at all times. This required a focus on these three key tasks, each being critical to successful delivery:

        • An early and very structured approach to planning – this required disciplined time management so that the planning progressed in parallel with the range of other ongoing tasks.
        • Crystal clear delegation of supporting tasks to colleagues – the volume and breadth of preparatory tasks were simply too much for one person to handle solo. Therefore, it was essential for those assisting to be clear about what needed to be done and how each element contributed to the plan as a whole.
        • Detailed preparation of logistics and materials – to be organised for each workshop regarding the timetable, venue characteristics, supporting materials for participants, and information capture mechanisms.

The success of running workshops comes down to a canny blend of thorough preparation and mental agility on the day, with the latter only possible due to the former. For a skilled facilitator it is only by knowing precisely what really matters for the clients, that you can adapt to proceedings to keep things moving in a sound direction, yet still retain the capacity to flex and adapt if needed.

Lessons learnt

By focusing on early and structured planning, clear delegation of tasks and detailed preparation of logistics and materials, we were able to deliver all workshops to the same exceptional standard. Moreover, the experience provided valuable insights into what makes for a successful workshop which we will carry forward to future projects.

These were our key takeaways for what constitutes a successful workshop (for both us and our clients):

        • Clarity of objectives – it’s one of the most important factors and with everyone clearly focused on a shared purpose the chances of generating insightful and workable solutions are greatly increased. As the event progresses you’re able to be agile and adapt activities as needed, still focused on reaching clear-cut outcomes and the whole process running efficiently.
        • Testing of the agenda early – using a standard template has served us well, but populating detail earlier was even more beneficial. It allowed for testing the agenda internally within the JAC team – leveraging the combined expertise of a lot of experienced people. With the client fully engaged in the event planning there was an even greater sense of shared ownership and confidence in the event design. And, it allowed for the formation of a bank of options to resolve any “what if…..?” situations that might arise.
        • Rapid translation of the information captured during the workshops into draft outputs – with further events requiring imminent attention, it was imperative to give an overview of the contributions and reflections of the participants to the client without delay. As we emphasise and summarise key takeaways at the end of our workshops, linking this to participant feedback was crucial in demonstrating success.
        • Immediate debrief with the client following each event – arranged prior to the event, and happening quickly after each workshop these debrief sessions are invaluable. Not only was there in-depth reflection on the event whilst the activities were top of mind, but there was also a timely opportunity to incorporate any important findings into future events.

Preparation really is the key to success

Managing multiple activities with tight timelines and high stakes was a daunting task. Still, with the right approach, delivering quality and tailored work while meeting client expectations was possible.

While things can always be improved in any process, having to deliver seven events in rapid succession really accelerated this process. Not only did we identify possible improvements to delivering workshops while managing competing priorities and time pressures, but we implemented them at the time to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

Let’s just say we now have even more confidence in our ability to design, facilitate and deliver successful workshops and, whenever necessary, at a considerable pace.


Here’s what our consultant said …

“Whilst getting to the end of the month felt mostly like relief, I was also really proud of how the workshops turned out. Running so many different events in quick succession made me feel as though I was working at the top of my game, able to deliver really effective workshops efficiently for clients, and what’s more I felt like I was able to carry over learnings between them, meaning overall all the events were better.”


And the clients? Well, this is what one of them had to say about the facilitation:

“I just wanted to let you know what an excellent event you ran for us yesterday. Not only was it one of the smoothest and most expertly planned workshops I’ve ever been part of, the quality of the facilitation really showed when we hit a couple of speed bumps during the session itself. You were able to navigate us expertly through it so we really resolved the issues at the heart of the team’s challenges, on time, and in such an interesting and engaging way the team are really looking forward to the next event. Thank you.”


Ian MacGillivray
Email: ianmacgillivray@jaconsulting.co.uk
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ianmacgillivray


About Ian MacGillivray Ian is a chartered engineer and systems thinker who ‘joins the dots’ quickly, bringing an insightful, holistic approach across people, process, organisation, technology and information. Ian’s career is shaped significantly through his experience as a Royal Navy Commander encompassing corporate and programme management, maritime operations, systems engineering management, communications and training delivery. Ian has a particular passion for supporting the growth, change and innovation goals of medium and smaller sized companies, higher education establishments and public sector bodies.


And a final thought

How many meetings have you attended where objectives aren’t clearly stated or agreed let alone achieved – where all the parties don’t contribute – where the outcome isn’t clearly and efficiently documented?

Effective facilitation addresses these – and many other challenging situations – resulting in productive outcomes and can be applied to small meetings through to large scale events.

Wanting to resolve issues at the heart of your team’s challenges?

Ask how we could help.