I was recently asked if I thought an outside (professional) YPO/WPO retreat facilitator is always necessary. The questioner was throwing me a good natured challenge that could be paraphrased as: “Do you professional facilitators really add enough value to justify your expense?”
When I was on the North American (now International) YPO Forum Board, our research showed that professionally facilitated retreats were consistently rated higher than member-run retreats. That research was the primary motivation for the board to expand the number of forum retreat facilitators.
I don’t mean to suggest that all professionally facilitated retreats are great and all member-run retreats are lousy. In my YPO/WPO career, I participated as a forum member in well over 35 retreats (age 26 -52; membership in two forums for a good part of that time). Some member-run retreats were outstanding (I wrote about my favorite non-professionally-facilitated retreat topic here). Some professionally facilitated retreats were merely OK – although none were lousy. My personal experience mirrors YPO’s research: The professionally facilitated retreats were generally better.
The best practice is to mix it up and try new things. If you had a powerful retreat experience with a pro, that might warrant a return engagement the following year. However, after two years with the same professional, it is time to move on to someone else or do it yourself.
One situation always calls for a professional facilitator – when the forum is stale. Among the signs of staleness are poor attendance and few explorations/presentations (extended updates frequently are the main agenda item). In this case, the right professional facilitator can give the group a “shot in the arm” and provide the environment for a major re-commitment of the members.