Facilitation GuidelinesIn the role of facilitator, you can be worth your weight in gold by following these fifteen simple, yet critical facilitation guidelines.

15 Facilitation Guidelines

  1. Session leaders must observe carefully and listen to all that the group says and does. Be there! Totally immerse your body, mind, and spirit in the method of the group.
  2. Recognize all group input and encourage participation. Your ability to convey interest and enthusiasm in the group about the importance of the deliverable will be critical in your success as a session leader.
  3. Scan the group for nonverbal responses (including observers).
  4. Facilitation represents a helping mechanism. Ask questions rather than lecturing the workshop participants. Listen and keep your group involved.
  5. Stay on the task. Never lose sight of the holarchy. Avoid straying to other topics no matter how informative the topic may be or how much it may interest you or the group. Let the participants help keep the group on course if you are a weak process policeman.
  6. Of all the facilitation guidelines, the most important may be to stay neutral. Do not lose your neutrality. Eliminate your personal bias and opinions from the discussion. The goal remains for the participants to provide answers or options, not you.

  7. Learn to expect hostility, but do not become hostile with your group or any participant. You must develop an attitude of acceptance. You may not agree necessarily with what is being said, but you can listen, accept, and record their answers and opinions. Let the group evaluate the content.
  8. Avoid being the expert authority on the subject. You can be an authority figure, but your role is to listen, question, enforce the method, or offer tools and options.
  9. Put the participants on break at no longer than 90-minute intervals. Be specific about the length of breaks, typically ten minutes. Adhere to your times and always be punctual.
  10. Use breaks to free a discussion when it is deadlocked. Breaks give the participants a chance to clear their minds and likely come to a new understanding.
  11. Do not let your personal prejudices interfere with your role as a session leader. Let go of the need to win everyone over to your point of view. The group will do the work. You are there to serve the group. Assist them in reaching the outcome.
  12. During breaks, arrange the flip chart pages, taped on the wall, to build a histogram of progress made in the workshop.
  13. During transitions and before you break for lunch or the end of the day, summarize the workshop progress and next steps. Give the group a thought to ponder and commend them for the amount of work they have completed.
  14. Do not keep people too long (eight to nine hours are about as long as people can remain productive).
  15. Stop a workshop if the group is sluggish and difficult to control, even if they wish to continue. Explain that, when people are burnt out, no progress occurs.


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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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