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The role of Tour Guide Barbie in event facilitation

By 25th February 2019January 4th, 2020Blog, Providing professional facilitation
Winter Ken and Barbie | Axiom Communications

How to guide leaders and participants to reach new heights

As rehearsals got underway for an important meeting recently, the Head of Corporate Communications reminded everyone about the ideal outcomes of the event. At that point, the President of the business turned to me, as conference facilitator, and said ‘So, you’re the tour guide, get us there.’

‘Not a problem…’ I quickly replied. ‘We’re clear about where you’re trying to get to and we’ve co-created the agenda to get us there.’ My job is to work with you and the other speakers to inspire your event participants to come with us, enjoy the experience and inspire the rest of the business to come on the journey.

In truth, I quite liked his ‘tour guide’ metaphor. So how can a professional facilitator help leaders and participants reach new heights in their organisations, before, during and after an event, conference, or meeting?

Being clear about base camp

As the American author Suze Orman rightly says, ‘It’s impossible to map out a route to your destination if you don’t know where you’re starting from.’ Researching the well-worn paths that leaders and participants have already walked will help shape a fresh and relevant approach to the event – and ensure no one accidentally treads on any thin ice. Desk research and a number of structured interviews with key stakeholders are ideal ways to achieve this.

Agreeing what peak performance looks like

Now we need to be super clear about where we’re going. Co-creating total clarity about the destination and direction of travel is key if the facilitator is going to be ideally-placed to help you get there and help both the speakers and participants stay on track. This should be expressed in terms of outcomes – the things you want participants to be thinking, feeling and, most importantly doing, as a consequence of your event – and formally signed off by leaders.

Mapping the routes to success

Good facilitators have a wealth of experience in agenda design, ice-breakers, energisers, interactive exercises, generating dialogue, problem solving techniques, team activities, ways to bring the content to life, tips to help presenters shine, calls to action, etc. All this needs to be harnessed and mapped out in a highly detailed playbook, so that everyone involved knows the routes to success and their role in delivering it; conference organisers, speakers, technical partners and participants.

Guiding at the summit

Having partnered with you every step of the way, by the time the event itself comes around, your facilitator will be uniquely qualified to do what they do best: Make it as easy as possible for the speakers play to their strengths and deliver outstanding performances, ensure the participants have the best experience possible and guide the meeting, metaphorical compass in hand, towards success – despite the many unplanned diversions that inevitably crop up and throw the unwary off-piste.

Taking the next steps in the journey

Now you might think that the impact the facilitator can make stops at the same time that the event does. But I hold a different view. Built in to the process from the very outset must be how to ensure the key messages from the event actually leave the conference room and are brought to life in every part of your business, by newly inspired participants and through them the teams they lead. A great facilitator can advise on how to achieve this and help ensure that the ‘next steps’ are truly taken.

So, if you want to think of a conference facilitator as a tour guide, that’s fine with me, I qualify on two fronts.

Firstly, I can bring over two decades of experience in event design and facilitation to help you achieve your business goals and help your organisation reach new heights.

And secondly, as I’m infectiously enthusiastic about the rich history of my home town of Southampton I’ve earned a nickname as we go on walks there with friends and family, inspired by the Toy Story franchise, Tour Guide Barbie.