Blog > Today’s Facilitation Guidelines (because tomorrow they’ll be different!)

September 15, 2008

Today I facilitated a workshop for the first time in about five weeks. The gift of time between facilitations meant I could reflect on what to do and not do. I was struck by how little time I spent in front of the group – about 50 minutes over seven hours.

Give ’em a task then get out of the way – write up the focus or question and the task, organise the group if needed, check for understanding then get the hell out of there

Make it meaningful – encourage everyone to see how their perspective contributes to the topic and where they fit in the bigger picture. Let them discover this for themselves.

Allow people to follow their passion – give people ample opportunity to self-select what they want to work on

Timing – if people are engaged and contributing, allow it to continue; don’t be sidetracked by those who superficially explore a topic, finish first, and want everyone else to conform to their speed of working

Involve the client/sponsor in making decisions about what to do next. Beats me how anyone can plan what to do next, before the product from the previous activity has even been created. Use what emerges as your guide to what to do next. Look at it and consider what will value add. Check with whoever is actually going to use it after the workshop. Make a decision, then do it. Don’t over-analyse or do the work on behalf of the participants.

Create movable data – information written on cards or anything that can be moved around is much easier to work with than lists 

Recognise that people will struggle with convergence – just about every workshop involves some aspect of divergence (exploring) and convergence (pulling together). Divergent thinking is fun and energising; convergent thinking is hard work and sometimes frustrating. Let them struggle.

Don’t answer questions –  when people want to know how to do something, or what criteria to use to make a decision, or what is meant by the question, they’re being lazy, or dependent, or both. Ask them what they think, what would they do, how would they answer, then let them get on with it.

Extend the event horizon (hat tip to Matt Moore) – find ways to keep the group engaged on the topic beyond the life of the workshop: social networking, a wiki etc – and when it’s no longer needed, kill it off.

But more importantly…


What are your facilitation guidelines?


What would you add to my list?




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