No matter how hands-on you usually like to be as a business leader, in the case of running meetings at a retreat, it’s often best to hand the reins to a pro. You’ll still set the goals, the agenda, the rules and the tone for the retreat; your outside facilitator will simply bring your vision to fruition. For an investment of anywhere between $1,500 and $15,000 per day, a qualified facilitator can:
Set and Maintain Ground Rules
Qualified facilitators come into each situation without interpersonal biases and are experts at establishing ground rules for meetings and sticking to them. By contrast, CEOs (or the internal surrogates they assign) may find it difficult to abide by the rules they set or struggle to keep others from transgressing those boundaries and launching individual criticism, which can stop or derail meaningful exchanges.
Assign Homework and Expectations
A facilitator can help you identify key issues for discussion and craft surveys on agenda items to hand out before and after the event, in order to help your attendees prepare for an effective meeting in advance and to reflect on the meeting discussions.
Ensure Everyone Participates in the Conversation
A good facilitator will keep your team engaged in challenging conversations longer than you might typically think appropriate, giving the less assertive or more reserved members of your team the time they need to formulate and articulate their thoughts.
Cultivate Team-building Opportunities
Facilitators have experience with designing team exercises, such as pairing up employees or small groups and assigning them to perform different exercises and share different experiences.
Keep Track of the Output
Your facilitator will help you capture key decisions and unresolved issues—resolutions, issues and unanswered questions. New goals will all be captured and consolidated in a closing summary document that recaps the progress, conclusions, goals achieved and issues left unresolved. Some facilitators will lead post-retreat sessions to assess how well the group has implemented ideas and goals.