Facilitation 101

Facilitation 101


What is this for? This is an introduction for anyone who wants to get better at guiding a group to achieve a common goal. Start facilitating with confidence by applying some simple, structured tips and tricks. Mindset and core principles The mindset behind learning the art of facilitation is about understanding the importance of including diverse perspectives and the value of design thinking principles. See also

How to prepare & facilitate with confidence

Before a session (prep)

  • Think about any materials you might want to prepare in advance
    • e.g. digital boards, relevant collateral, examples for inspiration, ...
  • Think about the who the right people are for the session
  • Write a session plan with timings
    • Think about how long each activity/section might take
    • Include warm-up, time for questions, recap at the end, etc...
    • Then add at least 5 mins buffer time between each activity
  • Prepare an agenda (and make it visible during the session)
    • Seeing it helps everyone feel comfortable with what is about to come (a little like seeing a movie trailer before sitting down to watch for 2 hours)
    • It can be very simple!
    • An example from a digital workshop
      An example from a digital workshop

  • Put buffer-time into your session plan
    • While planning the timing of your session allow a good amount of buffer time in-between activities or you are almost guaranteed to run over-time
    • People love to talk and sometimes a topic might warrant further discussion. Plan for this and you'll never be caught out.
  • Avoid too much pre-reading
    • We all know that pre-reading can be very useful, to bring everyone up to speed and save time in the session, BUT if you assign too much "homework" people will start to feel less energized when they receive an invitation from you
  • If you're Using a Decider, prep them before hand on what their role involves. They can be an ally for you during the activities.

Starting a session

  • Start with a quick warm-up/energizer activity
  • Quickly talk through the agenda
    • ...and the objective of the meeting/session
  • Set any ground rules and logistics (if relevant), e.g.:
    • In a 3 hour workshop you can explain that you till take breaks every hour
    • Ask people to turn off notifications or put their phone away (except in breaks)
  • Allocate time for anyone to ask questions about what will happen (5 mins can be enough)
  • Get participant's expectations
    • A great exercise for this is Hopes & Fears. It's an effective way to gauge participants’ attitudes about a project, workshop, or any other collaborative engagement.
    • Source: IMB Enterprise Design Thinking
      Source: IMB Enterprise Design Thinking
  • Explain your role as the facilitator
    • You will guide the group through a series of steps. But they will have the ideas, input, questions, and decisions that will determine the outcome.
    • Despite what you might feel, you are not responsible for the outcome! The group is.
    • Taking this pressure off yourself will make you a more confident (and more trusted) facilitator.

During a session

  • Use a timer for activities (and discussion)
    • Digital collaboration boards have built in timers which are easy to use and everyone can see the time passing.
    • image
    • Even if you are not using a digital tool you can still set a timer with your phone, or use the timer in Google Chrome and share your screen.
    • image

  • Cut out circular discussion
    • In a regular meeting or long workshop it's easy for discussion to spiral out of control. A quick, easy way to short-circuit unnecessary discussion is to run a quick
      Note & Vote
    • image
    • Another simple tip is to "pre-warn" participants by setting expectations in advance that sometimes you will need to stop discussion for the sake of progressing
  • Start writing on the board
    • Some activities require people to write down their ideas (e.g. on stickies)
    • But, people often feel apprehensive to start writing (fear of being wrong)
    • If you start writing down ideas you hear them saying (or starting examples) it can lead the way, and show them that they don't have to be perfect.
  • Give clear instructions
    • Give people one clear way to do an activity (it's tempting to give alternative ways, but it usually leads to more confusion)
    • Write the basic steps so they are visible to everyone (not everyone will hear you the first time - and remember)
    • image

Closing a session

  • Recap what you all did together
    • Allocate some time to talk through the steps you did and where you ended up (5 mins can be enough)
  • Show the group what's coming next
    • People will walk away with a sense of pride and satisfaction if they know how the work they did will be taken forward
  • Get reflections from the group (optional)
    • Reflecting can be especially useful if you want the participants to understand the value of the activities they did, and perhaps use them on their own.
    • image

Checklist (am I ready?)

I've though about the right people to invite
I have an agenda ready to show
I've written down a session plan with timings (and buffer time)
I've prepared any materials (e.g. digital tools like Mural)
I've written down instructions for participants (especially multi-step activities)
I've got a timer ready to use

Additional Resources


Recommended reading

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Additional Resources


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