Have a big request? Facilitate your way to a “yes”

This article from World Conference Program Advisory Chair Stacy Wilson, ABC, is the next in a series which offers reflections on issues and innovations to be explored at the IABC World Conference.

49845475_lIt’s far easier to say no than yes. Saying no can be done with little thought or consideration. Saying yes pushes so many other boundaries—real or artificial—that often constrain us.

This is the magic of what Helen Marriage does through her U.K.-based firm Artichoke. Helen gets people to say yes to things that are sometimes entirely counterintuitive. Certainly, the value her events deliver is culturally important, but what I really find fascinating is her ability to get people to a yes.

Helen and her company bring large-scale, interactive art experiences to the public; installations that sometimes demand street closings and other interruptions of public services.

Helen will deliver the opening keynote at the IABC World Conference in New Orleans in June. In the meantime, I wanted to further explore the idea of getting others to yes.

Taking the first step

Getting ourselves to a personal yes requires some courage, but moving other people to a yes demands even more. There are several important skills Helen leans on.

She must:

1. Articulate value, return on investment and a clear picture of her vision to help the skeptical visualize the possibilities.
2. Take a leadership role on topics where she is not the expert. This means nurturing relationships and surrounding herself with experts from many different fields.
3. Engage a wide variety of people in collaborative planning, which takes tremendous facilitation skills. Success requires her to appreciate the needs of each player and help them find common ground.

Implications for the communicator

Communicators live in the articulation arena. It’s what we do. Sometimes, we help others articulate their view of value, ROI and vision. Other times, we articulate our own. Either way, we get good experience in this in every communication discipline.

Many communicators grow into leadership roles over time and with experience. Others are opportunistic leaders, taking the reigns for important efforts when others fail to step up. I very much respect the latter ability in a communicator; too few have the courage to lead initiatives outside of their personal wheelhouse.

Fewer communicators see themselves as facilitators. Surely training can help you acquire the skill set, but really great facilitators are motivated by something else: the thrill of collaboration and education. Enabling collaboration amongst others creates new value that didn’t exist before. Teaching changes mindsets, opens new perspectives and can generate lasting energy and initiative.

Now, I love facilitation, but Helen Marriage must really love facilitation—and be really good at it—to get so many politicians and city service leaders to shut down major areas of a large city like London. Of course, her love of the resulting artistic experience is the impetus. But I’m guessing it’s the thrill of the process that carries her through.

What carries you through? How do you bring others to a yes?

Want to learn more about Helen and the work of Artichoke? Register for the IABC World Conference today!