It’s rare the professional that considers themselves an active facilitator in a typical meeting. Most people will think of being the meeting organizer, a presenter or an attendee.
But a facilitator can create a far more dynamic and productive meeting. Or better yet, a work session. By “work session” I mean people are actively creating content and meaning together.
Here are 4 keys to facilitating a great work session.
1. Establish what participants will be asked to create
Prior to the work session, target what invitees will be asked to create – ideas, feedback, observations about a specific topic. Write down and test the prompt to see that it works for the topic.
At the beginning of the session share the prompt, not the agenda, as the focus for the work session.
2. Give people 10 minutes at the start to write down their ideas
Jumping right into a collaborative creation of content favors the outgoing and those with the most power in the room.
Instead take time for everyone to write down their initial ideas so everyone has something to contribute. You really do want diversity of ideas and perspectives, not dominant narratives.
3. Create a positive and encouraging vibe as people start sharing ideas
As people begin sharing their ideas, your number one job is to get as many ideas shared and heard as possible.
Make no judgement of what is shared and be positive with every contribution. “Yes! Nice. What else?…Yes!” This positive space encourages more ideas to be created and shared, especially if critical ideas are part of the work session.
4. Foster reflective discussion after all ideas are shared
To create insight and understanding of the ideas shared, it is critical to ask questions and discuss the content itself. “What kinds of ideas do we have here?” “What haven’t we thought of?” “What is interesting about these ideas?”
These prompts help each person detach from a focus on their ideas to a more general notion of the quality and character if the idea overall.
Facilitating is a critical professional skill in a world of inclusive collaboration. Practice these four pointers to develop and hone your facilitative powers!