After a few decades of facilitating workshops, strategic planning sessions, and important conversations, I’ve learned some great lessons on facilitation. Some of those lessons are tough lessons learned with challenging people and/or processes. Some of the lessons are simply best practices which have worked for me and I’ve used them again and again. A couple of these helpful hints are just good lessons from life on the road. Here’s a list of tactics to try!
1. Humor creates connection. Whether you’re laughing at yourself or creating opportunities for laughing, people enjoy learning when they’re connected and laughing.
2. If you ask a question, count to 10 silently in your mind. That gives the introverts time to think about what they want to share aloud.
3. Challenge with grace. There are times to push and challenge, but never attack.
4. Create intentional movement for the participants to discuss ideas with each other. It’s healthy for the body as well as the brain. Stretch – take a short time out to do some simply stretching or yoga.
5. Remember that for some people, it’s a real risk to raise their hand to share.
6. Make other feel good about sharing their insights, questions, and opinion. Don’t shut the conversation down or the people themselves.
7. Sometimes the best learning opportunities are the most uncomfortable…and actually make you sweat.
8. Deal with it. Sometimes a rumbling train strides by, shaking the building. Police sirens may interrupt a great reflective moment. Sometimes the electricity goes out in the entire hotel.
9. Ask people for recommended articles for follow-up learning.
10. No matter how big or small, freebies are fun! Candy, water bottles, eyeglass cleaner, jump drives – all have the power to give a little boost to the group energy.
11. Ask how many people feel like novices to the topic and how many could be experts. Be sure to tap into the experts so they can share unique stories and examples.
12. Think about the food being served during snack breaks. Sugary sweets are great in the moment but create energy crashes an hour later.
13. Watch your caffeine intake. No one wants a jittery speaker/facilitator guiding conversation.
14. Everyone likes to learn something positive about themselves. Create opportunities for feedback sharing.
15. Be prepared in advance. If you’re running short on time, think about which nuggets of information are least important so you can punt if necessary.
16. Do “what if scenarios” in your head regarding attendance. My last workshop room was set for 40 people. When 90 showed up, people had to sit on the floor and/or stand for an hour. Be ready with a few options to lean on.
17. Eat local. Get out of the hotel and create some memory of the city you’re in. You don’t want your memory of a cool city to be the ugly conference room with four beige walls.
18. Packing cubes! These simple packing cubes have kept me organized and my clothes unwrinkled.
19. Load up your phone, Kindle, or other device with books and audio books from your local library. When you’re stuck during a layover or delay, you’ll have free options. Check out the Libby app.
20. Eat dessert as an appetizer.