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Techniques for Effective Facilitation

A “facilitator” is someone who acts as a ‘lubricant’ by helping a team with issues such as communications or problem solving but, typically, does not contribute to the actual content or management of a team’s project (which is a team leader’s function).  While there are a number of seminars, trainings and workshops to learn how to effectively facilitate or become certified as a facilitator, if you do not have the resources to hire a facilitator or become one, here are some tips to help get you started.

➢    Establish a Comfortable Learning Environment
•    Establish and uphold ground rules to encourage positive group interaction.  Start with a few of your own and ask the group to for any others they would like to include.  Be sure to get a commitment from each group member that they agree to the ground rules.  Some examples of ground rules…
•    Confidentiality – what is said in this room, stays in this room
•    Speak from your experience – use “I” instead of “you” or “we”
•    There are no right or wrong answers – our responses are based on our unique experience
•    Practice respect for myself and others
•    Listen actively — respect others when they are talking.
•    Keep the focus of the conversation on the situation or issue – not on the person
•    Lead by example – Maintain the confidence and esteem of all participants
•    Listen actively – show interest, be aware of non-verbal cues to help gauge comfort levels, listen for content and feelings when someone is speaking and respond to both
•    Use humor when appropriate
•    Control distractions – including distracting participants

➢    Develop Participation
•    As a facilitator, you talk time should be less than 40% – refer questions back to the group, resist “lecturing” or being an “expert”
•    Ask open-ended questions
•    Be comfortable with silence – it may be a time of thought.  Wait a full 10 seconds after asking a question.  If there is no response, re-phrase the question
•    Address people by name
•    Use your personal experience as an example when appropriate

➢    Manage Over-Participation
•     Refer to the ground rules
•    Ask closed-ended questions
•    To get the group back on topic, ask participants to link the conversation to the issue you are discussing

➢    Be Clear
•    Use simple, straightforward words and sentences
•    Transition smoothly from one activity or discussion to another
•    Speak clearly, at a moderate pace and an appropriate volume
•    Use visual aids to enhance and reinforce
•    Ask for questions in an open manner – “What questions do you have?”

➢    Handle Aggressive Behavior
•    Stay relaxed and un-defensive
•    Acknowledge that you hear and understand by paraphrasing
•    Allow the other person to “save face” – acknowledge the value of the person’s concerns

These tips may be used for trainings and planning sessions, and many work well for presentations, too.

Even with all these tips, the most important is still Be Prepared.  Have an outline or a curriculum. Know what you want to achieve and be able to clearly articulate the desired outcome.  Practice what you want to say, how you will say it.

And finally, Enjoy the experience!  If you are confident and have a good time, others will too!

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