International Facilitation Week 2013

To celebrate International Facilitation Week 2013, we have brought together a collection of hints and tips (articles, presentations and video posts) about the practice of facilitation and the crucial role that facilitators play. The inaugural event, which runs 21-27 October, is an attempt to showcase the benefits of facilitation and the skills of facilitators on a global scale.


Top 10 Meeting Facilitation Tips

Knowing how to run an effective meeting and facilitate a workshop are increasingly important skills for business professionals and managers. As clients demand a more inclusive and participative approach, good facilitation skills are essential to the success of big and small projects. We have listed 10 of the best meeting facilitation tips to boost your own facilitation skills and improve the meeting facilitation capabilities across your business. Here goes: 

Have a plan. Specify your desired outcomes. What do you want to achieve? Make sure you decide on these before the event.
— Meeting Facilitation Tip #1
Have a process in place to evaluate the tangibility of your plan. Prepare to be flexible but be clear about how individual group members will be involved at every stage.
— Meeting Facilitation Tip #2
People are different. They engage, communicate and learn in different ways. Provide participation in a way that accommodates for this diversity.
— Meeting Facilitation Tip #3
Don’t be afraid to run a number of different activities. Keep participants active, both mentally and physically.
— Meeting Facilitation Tip #4
Take questions on board but always bounce them back to the audience for an answer. Don’t answer them yourself. To facilitate is not to lead.
— Meeting Facilitation Tip #5
Use any disagreements as a way of better understanding the debate. Keep focused on the issues and avoid bickering about blame and personality.
— Meeting Facilitation Tip #6
Differentiate your thoughts and opinions and focus instead on concerns of group members. Make sure you are hearing every voice in the room. If there is a voice not being heard, work to draw it out.
— Meeting Facilitation Tip #7
Help the group explore the stories and metaphors they use to explain their situation. This can generate insight and help move things forward.
— Meeting Facilitation Tip #8
Ask open questions and invite people to say more through effective body language.
— Meeting Facilitation Tip #9
Understand the difference between being muted from the discussion and being overly passive. The most important thing is to be constructive and add value to the meeting.
— Meeting Facilitation Tip #10


Facilitation Infographic

In 2005, Ingrid Bens wrote the essential guide to facilitation skills and facilitator training. Facilitating With Ease remains a core text for aspiring facilitators. Team leaders, members, managers and consultants can all benefit from the insightful book which manages to articulate clearly what a facilitator is, what they do and – importantly – whyHere, we have illustrated a key section ‘Best and Worst Facilitator Practices’ in infographic form:

Could You Benefit From More Effective Meeting Facilitation?

Our free advice library offers useful presentation tips in a variety of key areas with a range of unique documents available to download.

'Powerful Questions for Facilitators', the Expert Guide, seeks to define facilitation by outlining what facilitators do and don’t do. 

Inside, you'll discover how to focus on core issues and communicate better as a team. Persuading people to your point of view more easily, your business meetings will be made more effective and your projects stand a better chance of being delivered on-time and within-budget.

Fill in the details below and download your free copy today... 

Facilitation Skills Slideshare

Facilitation is all about making it easy for groups of people to understand each other’s point of view. It’s worthwhile knowing what good and bad facilitators do. That way, a) if you’re called on to facilitate a meeting you’ll know what to do and b) if you’re participating in a meeting that’s being facilitated by someone else you’ll be able to spot if they stray off course and lend a helping hand in getting the meeting back onto an even keel.

This slideshare illustrates some of the good stuff with you and highlights the poor practices you ought to avoid in your own business meeting wherever possible. (Alternatively, you can watch the video: above.)

16 Process Tools for Effective Facilitation

Effective meeting facilitators use a wide range of process tools, but what are they? Again, with the help of Ingrid Bens, we have illustrated 16 of the most common process tools used by facilitators to get the most out of their business meetings and workshops… 

Process Tool #1 Visioning

Visioning is a participative approach to goal setting. Having participants put forward ideas allows them to be a part of the action. An interactive investment is made by each individual. This process tool is only really effective, therefore, if you hear from every voice in the room. The alignment of views can create a good level of energy and allows the group to reach a shared vision. Every participant should be clear about the desired outcomes of the meeting. 

Process Tool #2 Sequential Questioning

Sequential questioning is an assessment exercise that can uncover potential issues and conflicts in a snapshot. This process tool can be particularly illuminating at the start of a meeting or workshop. Typically the facilitator will ask a series of closed questions (requiring a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer) and ask for a brief description as to why. It is a good way to draw out honesty and discover what participants feel.

Process Tool #3 Brainstorming

Brainstorming is perhaps the most common way to generate ideas in a group environment. Providing some ground rules can be useful in terms of setting participants at ease. Clarifying that there are no bad ideas, for example, may coax a voice that would have been otherwise unheard. Brainstorming is an effective process tool because there is little evaluation or scrutiny of suggestions, that comes later. Brainstorming, in the first instance, is all about the accumulation of potential ideas. 

Process Tool #4 Facilitative Listening

Facilitative Listening is about ensuring that participants are properly listening to each other. This process tool is most powerful when conflict arises. Facilitative listening ensures that each side gets a fair and equal hearing. When participants feel that they are being heard, tension is relieved and the likelihood of compromise is increased.

Process Tool #5 Multi-Voting

Multi-Voting is a tool that allows you to quickly rank ideas based on priority. In a group setting, multi-voting is an easy way to establish what participants feel is most important. It is participative and democratic so there is usually little conflict. It only works, however, if you a) clarify what will be prioritised b) clearly set the voting criteria, and c) choose an efficient method, for example, a show of hands or sticker dots.

Process Tool #6 Gap Analysis

Gap Analysis is a means of identifying what is standing in the way of your goal. This process tool helps to identify a current reality. As the group goal should be identified early on, gap analysis encourages exploration and debate around ‘where we are’ and ‘where we need to be’.  The gap between these two realities is often a good starting point to answer the question ‘what do we need to do?’

Process Tool #7 Force-Field Analysis

Force-Field Analysis is an in-depth look at the pros and cons of any given situation. It is most useful as a process tool when all possible angles need to be scrutinised and evaluated. Force-field analysis allows participants to raise issues and identify potential problems with proposed solutions or goal statements. It is good, for example, on a flip-chart to note down what might help and hinder the achievement of the group goal. If you are aware of potential problems and deficiencies, you can best allow for them in any plan.

Process Tool #8 Root-Cause Analysis

Root-Cause Analysis is a way to unpick the underlying causes of a problem. It encourages participants to go beyond ‘this has happened’ and helps them to better understand ‘why this has happened’. This process tool is most useful when a group seeks a final and complete solution. Delving beneath the surface symptoms offers participants the chance to definitively solve problems.

Process Tool #9 Decision Grids

Decision Grids help to assess ideas based on set criteria. Essentially, a decision grid is a matrix that organises ideas based on how likely they are to be effective. This process tool is particularly useful when seeking to bring some order to a seemingly random or complex debate. 

Process Tool #10 Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting is a common way of identifying potential problems. Similar to force-field analysis, troubleshooting is a process tool that encourages participants to think ‘what could go wrong?’ and allows the factoring in of contingency plans. It is always better to prepare for setbacks and not be surprised by them. 

Process Tool #11 Wandering Flip Charts

Wandering Flip Charts are a means of engaging a large group of people. This process tool is a good way exploring a vast quantity of issues in a relatively short space of time. Even better, it is a way to initially indicate and then organise what topics should be discussed and explored at a later date. It is interactive, as the name suggests and often sees multiple flip charts stationed around, or large sheets of paper pinned to the wall of a meeting room.

Process Tool #12 Exit Surveys

Exit Surveys are a good way to take anonymous feedback from participants. They are a safe channel for participants who perhaps feel anxious about voicing key concerns in a group environment. As a process tool, exit surveys are a good way to collect snippets of data and decide upon areas for improvement.

Process Tool #13 Survey Feedback

Survey Feedback is a more thorough method used to gather information from group participants. The results can often be a real catalyst for change, identifying clear action steps.

Process Tool #14 Priority Setting

Priority Setting is a tool used to refine ideas into action. Big meetings can generate big ideas; flip charts packed with ideas and opportunities. How is all that theory translated into action? How do all those penned notes turn into a plan? Priority setting can kick start that process in an interactive, democratic way.

Process Tool #15 Needs and Offers

Needs and Offers is a tool best used to ease conflict among participants. On a split flip chart, participants are required to state ‘I need this from you’ and ‘I offer this to you’. As the focus is on giving and receiving, there is little room for conflict to escalate. The resulting debate should be more balanced, productive and easy to manage.

Process Tool #16 Systematic Problem Solving 

Systematic Problem Solving is a step-by-step approach that uses a combination of the facilitation process tools mentioned above. The systematic element introduces an element of participant responsibility along with designated roles and rights. If participants are involved in setting up the plan, they also bear responsibility to see that it is actioned. 

Data Source: Bens, Ingrid (2005) Facilitating With Ease!, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco 


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