It struck me how important it is to manage time when facilitating a group. I don't mean the time the (sub) group take when they are tackling the tasks - rather the time that guest speaker take in plenary sessions when they indulge themselves with their topic.
No amount of good planning can overcome a speaker who takes more time than was allotted to them, no matter how good they are (or think they are)!
I thought that I had leant my lesson many years ago when someone hijacked a workshop by taking forever to make the presentation that they thought the participants MUST hear. However, it's happened again and I think the lesson is: never, never leave it to someone else to brief the speaker. Instead, make yourself known and go through what they are going to say, encourage them to make it relevant and make it clear to them how important it is to stick to time.
On the other hand, recently I was facilitating a five day workshop and we had decided to keep people's feedback down to two minutes. At a break point one participant walked up to me and asked my advise - they were thinking of leaving the workshop. The reason: they felt that their English wasn't good enough. How did they come to that conclusion? They hadn't been able to think about what they wanted to say, translate it into English and say it within the allotted two minutes!
The moral: be aware of individual's needs and in the same way as the formal speaker, encourage people to share what they want to say BEFORE they have to speak out in the group. For me this goes back to 'format' - making sure that the group is working in the best way (one to all, everyone, group or all to one). The experience of the guest speaker and the feedback reinforce my feeling that 'one to all' format is to be used with extreme caution.
If anyone wants more information about 'formats' and other useful information about Facilitation, they can get my book: "Facilitation - an art, science, skill or all three?" from www.resourceproductions.com