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I've learned during the course of my career that getting people to talk can be both fabulously productive and incredibly difficult to achieve, depending upon the people, the situation, the challenge - and particuarly the facilitation.

If the facilitation is done well, a meeting, workshop or session with a substantive issue at hand can be hugely productive: a brand development exercise is a prime example. So is the initial requirements capture of a website project, or the brainstorming of a creative pitch. In this instance, the facilitator guides the creative flow of the meeting without imposing or leading obstrusively. They set boundaries and initial agendas; provide context and prompts; offer in-progress analysis and synthesis; construct strawmen to be knocked down and improved; probe casual and ill-thought out assertions.

Ideally, the participants in the meeting should come away thinking that they themselves have done all the work (which in a sense of course, they have). And if the facilitation is done well, the meeting - even a tense, momentous one - should be enjoyable.

If the facilitation is not done well, a meeting is unproductive, frustrating, depressing, unfocussed - and really not enjoyable at all.

I'm sure we've all sat through similar?

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