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Facilitator Guide

You've just been chosen to facilitate a session, now what? Here are some ideas to help support you as a facilitator.
Get clear on your session objectives and “the why”
What are you going to accomplish in this session?
Why is this session important for the team/task/goal?
What activities / discussions are going to support the goals of the session?
Prep for where the team is
This goes back to the group phase of development. For example, if your team is forming, you know you you can most likely expect silence in response to questions. Plan for it: consider how you’ll set up discussions to prompt participation, prep yourself for awkward silences, consider examples you might give to get conversation going, provide pre-reads...
On that note, we’ve started compiling team ice breaker / getting-to-know-you session ideas, see appendix.
If your session includes making decisions, consider the process
Consider how will you work from discussion to decisions; this is a perennial challenge for many facilitators, as the seduction of consensus can be strong.
Consider a divergent/convergent model. In the divergent phase of conversation, it’s all about generating ideas and open dialogue. As the discussion or ideation continues, begin pulling together themes and moving more toward a “convergent” synthesis of ideas. Taking those themes forward, be clear with next steps in the final decision (e.g., maybe a small work group partners with the DRI to finalize outside of the session).
Stanford’s D school (look past the ridiculousness of the video and focus on the rules)
A exercise can be helpful as well to generate ideas and then chunk the ideas into categories
Use reflection-in-action
Assume that your best-laid plan will have surprises. Rather than trying to force what you had planned in your mind or on paper, work with what’s happening in the room. For example, if a productive conversation is at play, don’t shut it down for the sake of the time boundary you’ve created for it. We recommend putting time buffers into your agenda to account for the unknown.
Continue to actively reflect upon your role in the group and how effectively you’re conveying information, encouraging participation, creating psych safety…
If you’re teaching something, keep in mind that you teaching does not mean anyone is learning (painful, right?). Learning happens at the individual level, so check in for understanding and any need for clarity along the way.
BART is your friend
Use the Boundaries, Authority, Role, Task (BART) framework to support your planning and reflection-in-action
Boundaries
What are the ultimate time boundaries for your session?
What are the physical boundaries of the space you’ll be in; how might the space affect participation? What’s the right room setup for what you’ll be doing?
What are the boundaries of the group? What’s discussable vs. undiscussable (hanging in the air but unsaid)? How might you make the undiscussable discussable in a safe way?
Authority
How effectively are you giving yourself authority (confidence) to lead the session?
Who will be authorized to support decision making?
Who in the room is authorized to do what?
Role
What implicit role might you be taking up, and is it serving the group and task?
What implicit roles are others taking up (e.g., cheerleader, class clown, devil’s advocate)? How are these roles serving or detracting from the task, and how can you work with them?
Task
What is the task you’re trying to accomplish in the session?
How ready is the team to work against the task?
How able is the group to focus on the task vs. fall into an avoidance of it?
Own it
If you’re in a large room, feel free to use the space; facilitate from different parts of the room to create dynamism.
If you feel your nerves come on; project your voice. It can imbue a sense of confidence and get you through the nervousness (faking confidence does wonders - seriously).
Don’t give your power over to slides or docs; they’re there to help you but should only have key information or snippets. Think of them as a complement.
Practice beforehand.
Use the 5 Ps of public speaking: pitch, power, pause, pace, and (once again) practice
Know your environment. Be crystal clear on what the offsite location will have (e.g., whiteboards, projectors) and what you need to bring. Here is a checklist you may want to use:
Large white post it paper
Small post its
Sharpies, pens, markers
Clicker
Projection cables and dongles
Chargers
Any print outs
Tape
Speaker (tunes are a great way to get energy going)
References
There are several articles you can find on psychological safety; here’s one:
👉 Next up:

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