How Facilitation Skills Improve Meeting Productivity

Meetings take up a significant amount of time for employees in small and large organizations alike. At some point, employees at every level of the organization will have to attend a meeting with other employees to obtain information, participate in a brainstorming session, or for a number of other reasons. Yet when employees are in these meetings, they are costing the company money. If these meetings are unproductive, they will cost companies even more money because additional meetings will have to be held down the road. In order to have a good meeting, one needs:

  • Goals that are thoroughly explained and understood
  • A defined strategy for reaching these goals
  • Employees committed to arriving to the meeting prepared and ready to participate
  • A feeling among participants that their thoughts and ideas are valued

When a meeting lacks the qualities outlined above, it will be unsuccessful and the company will need to hold additional meetings. One way to ensure that these qualities are present is by putting an individual with facilitation skills in charge of the meeting. Since many organizations do not provide meetings training for employees, they usually end up having to hire someone from outside the organization to properly plan and run the organizational gathering. Hiring an individual with facilitation skills will prove beneficial before, during, and after the meeting.

Before the Meeting

The hired facilitator begins by meeting with organizational leaders in order to gain background information including specifics about the company, its industry, its goals, and its employees. This individual will also make sure to ask about the purpose of the meeting so that he or she can set goals for what the gathering should accomplish. This is the time when organizational leaders should inform the individual with facilitation skills about all known personality conflicts within the organization, so he or she can address these during the gathering. Once preliminary research is complete, he or she will type up a summary of this information and distribute it to participants before the meeting begins.

During the Meeting

Facilitators effectively oversee the meeting and make sure that all organizational goals for the meeting are met thanks to knowledge acquired through meeting training. He or she encourages member participation by asking questions to spur discussion and by helping shy employees to come out of their shells. Once everyone has had a chance to speak, the facilitator will use facilitation skills to help the group reach a consensus on which every team member has agreed.

Following the Meeting

When an individual with facilitation skills is put in charge, the meeting will be run so smoothly that fewer meetings are necessary in the future. In fact, the facilitator will ask members of each department whether they understand their role in reaching the organization’s objectives. By giving everyone a chance to ask questions before work begins, the organization is able to keep everyone on the same page.

Once an organization is ready to hire an individual with facilitation skills, it should check an online database of facilitators. Ideally, the company should find a facilitator who has completed meetings training.

Getting Started Selling Products Online Beginners Guide

Like most small businesses your products or store has little or no national brand recognition. So how can you sell products online amongst the millions of other websites? Let this article serve as a guide to start selling your products online. There are an endless supply of tips and tricks to selling products online but the following are ones that I’ve had personal success with.

Professional Web Design

The overall look and feel of your website will have a great affect on people and the confidence to purchase from you. Most people are willing to make online purchases but with Internet fraud on the rise, you need a professional web site to build confidence in your customers. When new customers visit your site they typically won’t research your business before making a purchase, they decide based on how your site looks. See our article on Small Business Professional Web Site Design and Layout Guide for more tips.

Usability

Usability is very closely tied to the design and layout of your website. Website usability is the practice of making your website as easy for customers to use as possible. If you want potential customers to purchase your products, you must make it easy for them to locate your products and find out any information they need to make the purchase. If potential customers can’t locate products, descriptions, and prices quickly, they will go somewhere else. Many experts agree the the best websites allow viewers to navigate directly to products in three clicks.

Once customer is ready to purchase, the checkout process needs to be streamlined. Make the user fill out only what is required to make the sale with little extra. Don’t display page after page of additional products, popups, questions, etc… This will only lead to more people exiting the checkout process prematurely. Once they have made the decision to checkout, don’t give them any reason to change they’re mind.

You must accept credit card payments for online sales. Giving customers multiple checkout choices increase your chances of making a sale but most customers will still want to purchase using they’re credit card. Services like Pay Pal allow users without an account to purchase from your website securely without having an account.

SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

SEM is typically the process of marketing your website by paying search engines to display your ad when users search for particular terms. These ads are not part of the organic search results; rather they are displayed on the first page, many times above or to the right of the organic search results. This marketing has worked very well for many companies but it does cost money. Most services charge based on the number of times your ad is displayed (impressions) or the number of times your ad is clicked PPC (Pay Per Click). Most large search engines offer this service.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

This is one of my favorite ways to market my websites. Search engines cannot tell you specifically what to do to increase your placement in organic search engine results. If they did, obviously everyone would change they’re websites to rank high in the search results. This would result in sites ranking high that are not relevant to your search. SEO is a science to many people, they study sites that rank high, formulate theories as to why they rank high, test these theories on they’re sites, and study the results. The three important things for small businesses to do from an SEO standpoint are:

1. Key phrases: Research popular key phrases. Find out what key phrases people use when searching for your product. You should define at least 6 key phrases for your products. Many times these key phrases include brand names. For instance, if you sold shoes online, some of your key phrases might be: Buy Shoes Online, Running Shoes, Brand X Shoes, etc…

2. Content: Populate your site with key phrase dense content. Make sure your site has the phrases you’re defined in step one repeated on your website. You can’t just list your key phrases; you must incorporate them into your website elegantly. This can be done by rewriting your product descriptions and writing key phrase dense content. In addition to making sure your key phrases exist in your content, make sure your content is unique. If your content can be found elsewhere on the web, you may be downgraded by the search engines and other sites with the same content may get preference in the results. Making your key phrases relevant and your content unique will increase your position in the results.

3. Links: Getting one way links to your site not only tell the search engines that you exist but can increase they’re trust in your website. The higher ranked site that is linking to you the more trust you will inherit from that site. Getting links from sites, directories, blogs, and social networking sites that have similar content will help build trust with the search engines resulting in a higher position in the search results. Additionally writing and submitting articles and news releases with a link back to your site will build trust with the search engines that your site is an authority on the subject at hand, thus increasing your ranking with them.

There are many other tips, tricks, and rules to SEO and the more you study and tweak your site the better your search engine results will be. Make sure what you do does not have a negative affect on your ranking. Stay away from automated software or services that submit your site, link farms, spamming, sites that are not easily navigated by search engines, sites that use frames, all flash sites, any black hat tricks, etc… Make sure you research anything before trying it.

Products

Many people have found many ways to sell there products online. The following are two techniques that I have found successful

1. Selling large ticket items at cost. This technique is exactly how it sounds. If you can be the low price leader for your product this can generate sales and people linking to you. Obvously you won’t make money selling products at cost, rather when the sale is made you make extra money on accessories or at lease gain a customer. Customers are loyal to websites they have already purchased from, especially if they received good service.

2. Selling unique or customizing your product. This can set you apart from others. You will obviously have the foothold on a unique product and limit your competition if you customize your products. Your task is to build the perception that your unique or customized product is worth the extra cost (if any). Building value in your product will reduce your competition thereby increasing your chance of making a sale.

If you do not produce your own products, try to find as many products to offer as possible, the more the better. This only increases your chance of offering the product a customer may need. Additionally, from an SEO perspective, rewrite all your descriptions replacing abbreviations and using keywords where possible. This will create uniqueness for your products increasing your ranking in the search engine results.

This is truly a beginner’s guide to selling products online but following these guidelines will result in a solid foundation to build on.

Facilitators: Types of Facilitation Services Offered

Facilitators are a remarkably savvy business management resource, enlisted by organizations of all sizes. Understanding the types of facilitation services offered by professionals is an excellent way of determining which fit your specific business goals.

Conference Facilitation and Planning

Conferences are a common way of formally bringing people within a company or industry together to discuss new business ideas and opportunities. These services assist with building program agendas, gathering marketing and promotional materials, and scheduling sessions or speakers. They are highly desired by companies that struggle with time management issues and the amount of planning required to host or attend these conferences.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is an intricate process rather than an event in which a company and coordinator develop a projected long-term goal to increase business productivity. A well-organized strategy enables dialogue, opposition, positive feedback, and the mutual efforts of all internal company departments with a continued focus on the future. Organizations often recruit facilitators to ease the incorporation of a strategic plan during times they expect resistance from employees, such as drastic procedure changes and industry adaptation.

Team Building

Team building is a process used by facilitators and targeted toward increasing cooperation, teamwork, and camaraderie within a work unit to boost employee morale and positive collaboration. As business owners realize each member of a team plays an integral role of the company’s success, professionals are desired to introduce and monitor team building exercises with themes like creativity, brainstorming, problem solving, and trust. Designed to be stimulating, light-hearted and fun, coordinators are often able to pinpoint where a work unit’s social weaknesses lie based on how well they work with or against each other in each situation.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict is often the result of basic differences. Occurring whenever people disagree about personal motivation, perception, value, or ideas within the workplace, an unresolved employee issue can have severely damaging effects on the entire group. Business owners cannot afford to compromise productivity as a result, and strive to rectify the conflict with professional assistance. Conflict resolution services are a valuable part of the facilitation solution for an inevitable problem, offering a neutral party to mediate and settle disagreements diplomatically.

Process Improvement

Process improvement is a systematic approach to help companies fine-tune their underlying procedures to achieve more efficient results. Coordinators take what is normally a tedious and time consuming task off of the business owner’s shoulders to learn about each employee’s role, responsibilities, and method of carrying them out in search of more time and cost efficient ways of operating.

Focus Group Management

A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which an outside group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitude toward a company’s products. Facilitators organize and plan which questions will produce the most beneficial and informative results for a company that may be struggling to meet consumers’ desires and preferences.

Partnering Sessions

Partnering session facilitation services are a professional and ideal means of support for business owners rekindling a former financial and legal partnership, or establishing a brand new professional relationship.