Facilitation Survival Guide - Part 1

As coaches and leaders we spend a lot of time communicating with people. We lead conversations, meetings and spirited debates. It could be for small teams that need direction or sharing a message with a large group.

Having strong facilitation skills will help with all these different types of engagements where we have to orchestrate people. However, this quality doesn’t come naturally to some people.

This is the first of a three part series on facilitation. I am sharing with you my survival guide to help build your facilitation skills and create memorable events.

To help provide context for the examples below I am going to use the concept of Lifting off an Agile Team that has some knowledge of Agile, Scrum and Lean that takes place over a few days.


The best facilitators I know come prepared. They have a plan for the event logistics and a design for how it will flow and unfold.

The logistics are the easy part. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why are we meeting?

  • What’s the goal or objective?

  • Who’s going to be there? How many people?

  • When are we meeting (Date and Time)?

  • Where are we meeting?

  • How much time is required? How many sessions?

  • Are we providing food and beverages?

  • Will it be formal or informal?

This answers the who, what, when, where and why of the event.

Designing the event can be a little harder. You need to know your audience and the goal you want to achieve from this event.

For an Agile Liftoff I start by asking questions about the team:

  • How many team members?

  • What are their roles?

  • How long has this team been together?

  • Do we have any remote team members?

  • Do they have any Agile, Lean or DevOps experience or training?

  • Do we need representatives from dependent or supporting teams?

  • Will any internal or external stakeholders be present?

  • Will the Business and IT sponsors be present?

  • Will our leadership or management be joining us?

  • How about anyone else from our business teams?

This will help us understand the audience we will be work with. All the information will shape the key messages, activities, materials to be used and objectives we would like to achieve for each day of your Agile Team Lift-off.

To determine our goal it’s best to talk with the leadership and team to understand what a successful lift-off looks like in their eyes. This helps to create a sense of ownership of the outcomes. Also, It might uncover that there are a number of results that will achieve their goal of lifting-off the team successfully.

Some examples of goals you might hear:

  • Build team culture that includes core and extended team members

  • Share the full product vision with a focus on MVP

  • Train all team members in the fundamentals of Scrum

  • Share the technical solution and architectural blueprint

  • Understand the cost of going to production

Now that you have a plan and a design for the event it’s time to build your agenda with goals, select your activities, gather materials, figure out the timing of the audience and place any orders as required.

Know Your Audience

The more you know about your audience the better equipped you’ll be in the preparation. You can shape your message to something that will resonate well with them. The resources, content and activities can be centred around something that is more impactful.

You’ll be able to build a close relationship and emotional bond that will leave a memorable impression. Most of all you’ll be able to more effectively direct them to the goal that they want to achieve from the session.

Take time to investigate and ask questions about the people attending. See if you can get some insights into their interests, pain points, curiosities, values and passions. Then see how you can connect the them to the goal. It’ll be worth it in the long run.


That’s in for part one of the Facilitation Survival Guide. Remember that facilitation takes a fair amount of preparation which includes planning and designing the events. But most of all you have to understand the people you’re working with to make an impact.

Be sure to check back for part two in the coming weeks. I share some insights on Building An Agenda, Crafting a Facilitators Introduction, Creating an inclusive Environment, Effectively Setting Guidelines, Mastering the Art of Clear Instructions and Active Listening.You won’t want to miss it.


Facilitating with Ease!Collaboration ExplainedLiftoff: Launching Agile Projects & Teams

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