Your Awesome Preparation Checklist for Creative Facilitation
As a creative facilitator, you will often have stupendous know-how and a huge volume and complexity of activities to plan and implement. Simply using a great checklist can massively up-level your ability to consistently deliver for yourself and your clients and delegates – smoothly, reliably and efficiently every time.
I’ve found using a great checklist as part of our standard business process for creative facilitation has been invaluable when it comes to consistently ensuring great delivery, delegate experience and achievement of our clients’ goals.
Here are my top tips on why it’s important to use a checklist, the key things to include, and how to use it. If you’d like a free copy of the full, actual checklist that we use, you can download it right now. I’m super-sure that you’ll find it massively useful. It will really help you to streamline your work.
What is a checklist?
A checklist is simply a list of things that you need to think about and do to plan and deliver your creative facilitation events.
It includes all the fundamental items that you need to prepare for, which are generally the same questions and considerations for every event, regardless of the client, brief or duration.
But just because the checklist includes all the fundamentals doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. Quite the opposite, in fact. It should be the backbone of your planning and preparation activities. As human beings, we have limited capacity for memory, attention and focus, so your checklist is actually an essential piece of your creative facilitation toolkit.
Benefits of using your creative facilitation checklist
Did you know that the simple process of using checklists, in any planned activity, has these benefits?
Checklists help you to make sure that you don’t forget anything, and that you don’t miss out any key steps.
Checklists make our progress visible, which is motivating because the positive results will encourage you to do more.
If you’re prone to worry or anxiety about your events, especially if you are very new to creative facilitation, using a checklist helps you because it breaks the big, overall task into small actions that you can tackle one at a time. Having everything all laid out is reassuring because you know that you’re doing all the right things.
4. Time saving
Checklists help with time saving because they streamline your processes. Also, if you run lots of events and are planning several at once, you can bundle up elements of each event checklist to “batch produce” certain tasks. For instance, if you need to order materials, you can create one order for all the events you’re working on at once.
Checklists remove the need to remember the basics, so that you can declutter your mind and instead focus on the more added-value, creative elements of your event planning.
Because the checklist breaks down your event preparation task-by-task, it helps you to identify parts of the process that can be delegated out to people in your team, or perhaps to a virtual assistant if you work on your own.
7. Minimal risk of error
Checklists give you a process that helps you avoid making mistakes or errors. One of my favourite books is actually The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. It’s a compelling read. Gawande shows how breaking down complex, high pressure tasks into small steps can radically improve everything from airline safety to heart surgery survival rates. Your checklist will minimise the risk of any errors in your event planning and delivery, too.
8. Customer experience
Because your checklist includes the elements that are important to the customer, it helps you to achieve exceptional levels of customer experience.
So, as you can see, whether you’re a regular creative facilitator or only facilitate from time-to-time, creating your own event preparation process and checklist will save you a lot of time. It will also make your planning slicker and also be a confidence-booster, because you’ll know that you’re ready to go and well-organised.
Designing and facilitating an innovation sprint, strategy workshop or design thinking event can be challenging, especially when the event will last for a day or more. By having a checklist, you can relax more before your creative facilitation event. It will save you a lot of time and hassle! And it will work either for something that you’ve decided to do yourself for your own team, or for a session you’re running on behalf of an internal or external client.
What’s inside my Creative Facilitation Checklist
My creative facilitation checklist is divided into these sections:
- The brief
- Dynamics and practicalities
- Getting things done
Use this checklist every time you plan an event to make sure that you are clear upfront about what you’re aiming to achieve and why. Time spent at this stage is a very good investment and will reduce any opportunity for misunderstandings and disappointments.
1. What is the specific purpose of the event?
2. Why have you chosen to do the event at this time / now?
3. Who is expected to attend, and why?
4. Where will the event be held, and why?
5. Have any previous events been held on this or a similar theme, and what were the outputs (so that you can acknowledge and build on this as appropriate)?
6. By the end of the session, what do you want the attendees to:
7. Are there any factors that will help the achievement of the know, feel, think and do outcomes? And are there any that could hinder?
Once you have all this information, it is important to challenge yourself and your client to ‘test’ your thinking before detailed design happens and invitations are sent out. Use the Dynamics and Practicalities section of your checklist download to do this.
Dynamics and Practicalities
- Will you have the right people in the room? You will need experts, a positive disruptor or two, some people with fresh perspectives as well as some with experience, and perhaps, depending on what your event is for, a decision-maker.
- Will there be any ‘hierarchy’ in the room, or will that be placed aside for the session to allow freedom of discussion and idea generation? Quite often, I will suggest that hierarchy is ‘parked’ for discussions, idea generation and problem-solving, but that someone is named as ‘decision-maker’ for when something important, such as shortlisting key priorities, or signing off investment or actions, is needed. The decision-maker is not always the most senior person present, so it’s worth thinking about who that will be beforehand and checking it out with them, and your event sponsor.
- Have you got enough time to achieve your objectives? Make sure that your aims are clear and that you’re not being overly ambitious about what you can achieve in the time you have, and that you’re not trying to answer too many questions at once. Clarity and focus are key.
- Check the venue. Sometimes, we need to just work with what’s available, but ideally you will have:
- Space and also ‘permission’ to stick flipcharts to the wall.
- Enough space for everyone to move about.
- The facility to set up tables ‘cabaret’ style in small groups, rather than in rows or boardroom layout, or however you want to set up your space.
- A room with natural light.
- Access to reasonable breakout areas and self-serve refreshments on tap.
- Snacks and a lunch that are light and energising, rather than stodgy and fatigue-inducing.
If you are bringing a lot of stuff and are travelling by car, it’s a good idea to request a parking space be reserved as near to the venue as possible to help you set up and pack away.
After all this, create a session invitation and agenda for attendees that creates a positive perception of the day, and an anticipation that it will be a great event that they really want to be part of.
Getting things done
The Getting Things Done stage is about getting all the contents and logistics together, from what you need stationery and equipment-wise, to liaising with the venue or event organiser and getting your content and schedules sorted. It’s all inside my Creative Facilitation Checklist, which you can download here.
Would you like to access fresh ideas, tools, techniques and facilitation training for your knowledge exchange, innovation sprints, design thinking events and strategy workshops?
If so, check out my Idea Time membership for creative facilitators.
It’s SO important to make every event count, engage your stakeholders and participants throughout your innovation journey, and keep your activities fresh, stimulating and effective.
My Idea Time membership helps you to you continue to design workshops and sessions that will make the most difference to your projects, and get your team or stakeholder network on board so that you can get results – efficiently, creatively and effectively.
I’d love to work with you to take your creative facilitation success to the next level and beyond. If you’d like to have a chat in person, please do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!