While there are many different resources available to help hone your facilitation skills, we’ve put together a list of some of the things we’ve learned from our most effective CO.STARTERS Facilitators. These tips address some very common concerns and answer some frequently asked questions.
Leverage Both Whole and Small Groups
Interaction and participation is key for our programs to work as designed. We’ve found that alternating between whole group activities and small group activities helps cultivate community, connections, and deeper learning. Since everyone has knowledge to share, it isn’t necessary for the facilitator to be involved in every conversation. Set the ball rolling then let the group help each other.
Ask Good Questions
Because facilitators lead and build on knowledge that already exists in the group, asking good questions is essential. Questions should invite sharing and engagement from the group. For example, instead of asking “Did you complete your Canvas?” asking “What did you learn in completing your Canvas?” helps spur important conversation.
Don’t “Should” On Others
It’s important for facilitators to draw on their own experience and share it with the group. However, it’s easy to lapse into “You should…” when helping others find their way forward. Instead, use phrases like “From my experience…,” “I have found that…,” or “Something to consider is…”
Provide Accountability, Not Enforcement
One of the benefits CO.STARTERS programs provide starters is accountability. However, it’s important to remember that it’s on the participant to do the work; failure to do so primarily has consequences for them. Facilitators should ask about progress and help remove roadblocks. But it’s also okay to set personal boundaries; it’s not on you to make sure the work gets done.
Manage Group Dynamics
Due to the interactive nature of facilitating a group, often group dynamics come into play that can be challenging. Some people talk too much, while others not enough. Some ideas are incredibly out there. Knowing how to handle different personality types is vital. At the root of managing group dynamics, though, is the relationship the facilitator has with members of the group. Building individual connections and trust can make it easier to deal with situations that arise. Create an open and trusting atmosphere. Be understanding of their struggles. Some tactics you might employ include:
- Stop. “Can I pause you right there?”
- Affirm. “Thank you for sharing.”
- Reflect. “What I hear you saying is…”
- Invite. “What do others think? We haven’t heard from…”
Facilitators aren’t necessarily the expert, so it’s okay if there’s something you don’t know. Your job is to help participants find the answers. Use your connections and resources to help them figure it out. If you don’t know the answer to a question, push it back to the group. Someone else might know how or where to find the answer.
Know the Path
The way CO.STARTERS tools are crafted are to introduce difficult concepts a little at a time and build slowly. Strong facilitators don’t try to do everything at once. They’ve prepared well and know the path they’re leading the others along. So when a question arises that will be covered later, they know what’s coming and defer.
Know What’s Important and Where to Flex
Facilitation typically varies according to who is in the room. Because the make-up of groups vary, a facilitator often needs to make choices about where to focus limited time. Knowing who is in the room, where they are, and what they need to move forward can help determine what is important to cover and what can be deemphasized.
Use Simple & Direct Language
CO.STARTERS tools are designed to be simple and accessible to any starter. Using simple and direct language (devoid of jargon) helps ensure participants get the information they need in a way they can easily understand.