The Facilitator

What is your role?

SET THE STAGE

  • With your own behavior… Interact with people before the discussion starts. During the discussion smile, speak respectfully, listen to what others say.
  • Start with ground rules about: listening to others, not interrupting, giving everyone a chance, mutual respect, speaking about yourself and your own experience, not speaking about others or people in general. (For example. say “I think…” don’t say “people always…” or “they say…” or “everyone says…”)
  • Use body language to convey that you are paying attention and that you are neutral about the content of the discussion. Face the person speaking, nod your head, keep an open body stance (no arms folded across your chest). Frowning, showing disapproval, shock or surprise or showing approval or agreement can shut off full discussion of a topic.

MANAGE THE FLOW

  • Encourage everyone to speak by asking for participation, “Anyone else?” “What do you think of that?” “Anyone want to answer that question?”
  • Encourage participants to speak to each other, not to you, by glancing at others if someone is addressing you, saying “tell them.”
  • Keep alert to all parts of the room
  • Call on everyone who wants to talk, not just the most verbal or those most aggressive in getting noticed
  • If one person or a few people are dominating the discussion, say something like “we want to let everyone have a chance to speak.”
  • Discourage side conversations by saying to the person who is trying to speak something like “what you have to say is important, why don’t you wait until everyone can hear you.”

Here are some hints that will help you have a meaningful discussion.

Facilitate by listening

  • Generally a facilitator does not participate in the content of the discussion
  • Do not comment or “add something” to everything that is said
  • Silence can be golden, don’t fill it, a participant usually will

A productive discussion

  • While someone is still speaking, others may make negative of strongly positive responses; interrupt this with visual cues and “hold on”or “you’ll get a turn”
  • Give reminders about listening with respect and confidentiality, if needed
  • Communicate that participants’ contributions are important with body language and an occasional BRIEF validation like “thank you for sharing that” or “thanks for bringing that up”
  • Don’t let one person or a few people dominate the discussion; encourage participation by asking “anyone else?” or saying “let’s give someone else a chance.”

Be confident

  • You are providing a great opportunity for people to share thoughts and ideas and learn from each other. As facilitator, you are not expected to provide answers to questions and solutions to problems. You do know how to talk with people. And, so do the people in the room. So, relax. Be open to insightful conversation and let the ideas flow.
Ice BreakersTHIS HELPS DEVELOP A COMFORT LEVEL IN WHICH PARTICIPANTS CAN INTERACT WITH ONE ANOTHER GO AROUND THE CIRCLE AND SAY IF YOU WERE AN ANIMAL, WHICH WOULD YOU BE AND WHY? IN PAIRS PEOPLE SHARE 3 BASIC FACTS ABOUT THEMSELVES AND ONE THING THAT MOST PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW ABOUT THEM (FOR EXAMPLE, A BIG HEALTHY LOOKING BEAR OF A MAN WHO JUST HAD OPEN HEART SURGERY) IN PAIRS PEOPLE SHARE 3 THINGS THEY NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT. FACILITATOR ASKS IF ANYONE HEARD ANYTHING UNUSUAL.
WITH A PARTNER, FIND OUT WHAT THINGS YOU HAVE IN COMMON THAT YOU WOULD NOT KNOW BY JUST LOOKING AT EACH OTHER (FOR EXAMPLE, BEING A TEENAGER OR WEARING GLASSES. DON’T COUNT, BEING A VEGETARIAN OR JUST GETTING BACK FROM A TRIP TO THE AMAZON DO) PEOPLE HELP THEMSELVES TO M&M’S IN A SMALL GROUP, EACH PERSON SHARES ONE FACT ABOUT THEMSELVES FOR EACH M&M THEY TOOK; IN A LARGE GROUP, BREAK UP INTO 2’S OR 3’S TO DO THIS. IN A SMALL GROUP, 1 PERSON TELLS 2 STORIES ABOUT HIM/HERSELF, 1 TRUE, THE OTHER NOT. THE OTHER PEOPLE ASK QUESTIONS TO TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHICH STORY IS TRUE IN A LARGE GROUP, BREAK UP INTO PAIRS, EACH PERSON IN THE PAIR TAKES A TURN.