Have you ever asked what makes a good facilitator? Have you, while facilitating a meeting or a discussion asked, “Am I doing a good job or do I really suck at this”? I can honestly say that I have asked this question several times while leading both meetings and discussions.
Finally I said to myself, “I am going to take the time to find out what makes a good facilitator”. Over the last couple of days I have researched, gathered information, and asked several leaders what makes a good facilitator. With the information, I put together a few thoughts and tips to help you be a good facilitator.
GOOD FACILITATORS ARE EXPERTS AT:
- Stimulating Discussion
- Generating ideas
- Fostering curiosity and excitement
- Stimulating dialogue
- Separating neutrality from passivity
- Producing Outcomes
- Listening, Listening, Listening
Here are a 6 Tips for being a good facilitator:
- Prepare in Advance: Do your homework. Put yourself in the seats of your listeners. Come up with questions they might ask. If you are having trouble with the topic make sure to seek out someone with wisdom on the topic. You want to be sure that you are prepared and ready to discuss.
- Define meeting Structure: It is imperative that you establish a group consensus so that everyone knows what outcome the group is after. You have to be perfectly clear if you want to lead the group effectively. If necessary bring a timer with you to stay on track with time. People hate when you go over on time and it erodes your trust. Also, it can help you as the facilitator if you understand the group dynamics and values. Why not take some time to get to know everyone. Maybe even ask a few questions about the people themselves.
Here are a few ideas to get the meeting started:
- The reason why we are meeting today is…
- The purpose of the meeting is….
- We will begin by…..
- Today the meeting should not go more than….
- Ask questions that prompt discussion: When you think through some of these questions in advance think through some of the possible answers as well. Make sure everyone is participating and be sure to ease them into it. If someone is quiet, use their name and move the discussion towards them by asking them questions to get their feedback. Be sure to ask questions that draw a vivid image and have a full toolkit of follow up question types. Don’t get stuck or bogged down in someone else’s issues. It is your role to keep the discussion moving. If someone has an issue let them know that they are heard, but that you have to move on and keep the discussion moving. Let them know that you can come back to them later.
Here are a few questions you can ask to prompt discussion:
- What would happen if we did?…..
- In your experience…….
- Tell me about……
- What do you think about?……..
- What ideas do you have?………
- (Insert name), you’ve been quiet. What are you thoughts?……
- Flipcharts and markers: Make sure that you have these on hand and you or someone is taking notes and capturing ideas, thoughts, and keywords. These must not be your ideas or your perception of what is being said, rather the persons exact ideas, thoughts, and keywords. If you need to come back and ask them to clarify, you can do that later.
- Summarize and state next steps: Just as you stated your goals at the beginning, make sure that you summarize what was accomplished and provide next steps or action steps for the group. This is what will produce the greatest results. If there are responsibilities for the group or individuals make sure to outline and communicate those as well.
- Embrace Silence: Silence during group discussion is not a bad thing. Some people process things out loud and some people process things internally. As a facilitator, your job is not to talk the whole time or tell long stories. Facilitators that are extroverts have a tendency to talk until they find something to say. If this is you, you will need to be conscious and aware of making sure to let others discuss as opposed to you talking for a lengthy period of time. Your job is to create the discussion by allowing others to talk. If silence remains for a couple minutes, ask the group “explain to me why there’s silence”, then allow them to talk, or silence to remain. Maybe the reason why the group is silent is because the question isn’t clear or people don’t understand what you’re asking them. After a couple more moments, ask the group “do you understand the questions?”, then stop talking again. In small group settings, silence is your friend.
Additional Tips and Warnings:
- Get snacks and drinks so the people will feel more comfortable. Soft music can also help.
- If you share some of your personal life, after a couple of weeks others will do the same because they feel that they can trust you.
- Let everyone know that what is discussed is private and will not be used outside the group.
What do you think?
What makes a good facilitator?