A facilitator is a person who coordinates and runs a meeting or event to make it as effective and efficient as possible. In the business world, facilitators can handle retreats and conferences as well as regular meetings. They can be particularly useful if there are concerns that not all the members of a group will be heard, or in settings where contention or argument could arise. Facilitators may, for example, mediate in a dispute between colleagues to help them achieve a resolution that will satisfy both parties.
Some companies keep one or more facilitators on staff to handle the organization of various activities for the company. The facilitator is neutral, and works solely to establish communication and keep communication open and effective throughout a meeting. In some cases, an outsider may be more effective, as this person will have no knowledge of company history, and also lacks a vested interest in any particular outcome.
The facilitator can arrange the space, plan the timing of the meeting, and copy materials for distribution and discussion during the meeting. Facilitators can meet with all parties privately before the meeting to discuss their goals for the meeting, and may consider this information when they provide advice and assistance during the proceedings. The goal is to make sure that everyone leaves the meeting feeling satisfied, whether they achieved all their goals or had a chance to be fairly heard. This person may act as a chair or may sit by and step in if necessary, but can otherwise allow people to run their own meeting.
Parties to a meeting can request the services of a facilitator if they feel it would be beneficial, and in some cases a company may order that one be used. In cases where a third party is necessary, the company can choose from a variety of private firms that specialize in facilitation services. Some firms may offer services for particular kinds of meetings and issues, ranging from software development to resolving disputes.
Qualifications to become a facilitator can vary by industry and type of work. Many have industry experience and some may be graduates of counseling or facilitation programs. Others may have degrees in business and related fields, along with experience they can apply to meetings. Facilitation firms can train their own personnel at workshops and retreats, and some of these organizations may accept trainees from outside who are willing to pay for a course.