Organizations depend on virtual and hybrid work environments to host events or large virtual meetings now more than ever. To make them as effective as possible, many leaders are considering hiring a facilitator or a moderator. But, there are important differences between a moderator and a facilitator.

The Difference Between a Moderator And Facilitator

Consider the moderator as the “master of ceremony” for the event or work session. The moderator maintains the session flow, stays on time, and keeps to the agenda.

For many video conferences and events, a moderator may simply be the host. While moderators make a meeting more efficient, they may not make it more effective.

A facilitator, on the other hand, does more than moderate. Facilitators keep conversations on topic. They also keep the participants connected and engaged while never losing sight of the purpose and goals of the event. A facilitator must be well-balanced in their approach and the best facilitators should possess additional skills not required for moderators.

Why Facilitators Are Critical For A Successful Event

As meetings continue to be virtual or a hybrid of virtual and in-person, using an experienced facilitator is more crucial in obtaining desired outcomes such as ensuring your message is clearly communicated – and received.

Engaging attendees and sparking meaningful conversations in virtual meetings can be difficult, especially if there is a large audience. In virtual meetings, attendees can more easily “tune out” and simply just show up. An experienced facilitator engages all attendees, including introverts, and asks thought-provoking questions that lead to productive conversations and greater collaboration.

Often the facilitator is a trusted guide who is the difference between a successful outcome or just another unproductive activity.

How To Choose A Great Facilitator – 6 Qualities To Seek

To get the best possible outcomes using a facilitator, look for these qualities:

  • EngagingThe key is having the ability to establish and maintain momentum throughout the entire event.
  • Communicative  – An active listener can be more important than being a good speaker for a facilitator. A good communicator asks the right questions and actively invites others to be part of the conversation.
  • Bridge Builder – Great facilitators know how to create and maintain a safe and collaborative environment for sharing ideas. This means helping others see all sides and finding a way to work together. (Related article – How To Avoid The Consensus Trap)
  • Collaborating This is being able to avoid confrontations and bring together the group toward a constructive resolution. Collaboration requires experience in respectful dialog with diverse individual personalities during a discussion.
  • Outcome Focused – By keeping the desired outcomes in mind, the facilitator can keep the session on track at all times. This results in minimized wasted time, allowing for shorter and more productive meetings – (which may mean fewer overall meetings to get something done).
  • Leadership A good facilitator must possess strong leadership qualities. Through their actions, they demonstrate how each participant and their input has value. A facilitator compliments the leader and helps them be more effective.
  • Technical Savviness – As more meetings and events become virtual or online, a facilitator must have expert knowledge in using collaboration and meeting technology so the medium doesn’t derail the event or activity.

When participants aren’t involved or contributing, the conversation can be dominated by one or two people. This can result in less buy-in, less agreement, and a feeling that the meeting time was a waste of time.

What Can You Expect When You Use A Facilitator?

With more meetings and Zoom events happening, many business leaders feel their meetings and events aren’t productive enough, or for some, a waste of time because their participants aren’t fully engaged.

When participants aren’t involved or contributing, the conversation can be dominated by one or two people. This can result in less buy-in, less agreement, and a feeling that the meeting was a waste of time. Other times, a meeting can be taken off-course by disagreements or through wandering topics.

An experienced facilitator helps avoid productivity pitfalls and creates meeting experiences resulting in action, consensus, follow-through, and positive feedback.

Where To Use A Facilitator

Using a facilitator can be a benefit in any meeting, event, or situation where leaders require consensus, outcomes, and where their leadership is on display. Facilitators can be someone on their team who takes on the role of facilitator to keep the event on track.

As leaders desire high-output and collaborative teams, their need for experienced facilitators increases.

Using facilitators can help in any meetings or collaborative activity, they can be especially beneficial in professional panel discussions, on executive and leadership boards, and at events where participation and consensus are critical to achieving company goals.

The Bottom Line

Clients hire me because they need to achieve a high level of success from their team. As the master facilitator of the Marshall Goldsmith’s 100 Leaders Community, I facilitate group sessions with leaders from around the world in a virtual environment. From small board meetings to events with hundreds of attendees, I know the impact having a strong and successful facilitator makes.

As a virtual and in-person keynote speaker, author, and master facilitator, I uniquely combine my coaching, team-building, and speaking expertise every time I lead a facilitation. The outcome is better meetings, seeing results sooner, and a more positive experience from leaders and teams alike.

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I give practical and actionable advice to business leaders who may be struggling to develop high-performing teams in my upcoming book, “Yeah…But”

Let’s turn conversations into outcomes.

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