Facilitation Survival Guide - Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of the Facilitation Survival Guide. Please be sure to check out part 1 if you missed it. Here we're getting into more of the different elements, techniques and tactics to make your facilitation more impactful.

Creating an Agenda

At this point you’ve determined your goal of your event. If you’re doing some team build and want to build co-ownership around the outcomes of this event then you can experiment with coming to the event with a high level objective and then co-creating an agenda.

If this is more of a directive event then I would suggest setting the agenda beforehand so people know what to expect and when they will be involved. Especially if you have an event that runs over a few days.

Remember the purpose of our agenda is to help inform people of what to expect, how they should be prepared and the tone of the meeting.

Facilitators Introduction

It’s important that you Introduce your role as a facilitator. It will help you clearly articulate what you will do for the event, set expectations as well as a tone for the event.

It's best to include some information that people can connect with and help to build rapport. Try the following:

  • Your name

  • Title / Position

  • Accreditation and/or experiences

Share a small short story about your personal journey as a facilitator. Also, let me know your goals and hopes for the event as well. Have something prepare ahead of time so it comes naturally to you.

There are plenty of ice-breakers and introduction exercises to choose from. I do enjoy the Peer Introduction Game.

Creating an Inclusive Environment

The mark of a great facilitator is when you have planned an event that has exercises, games and check-ins that create an equal playing field for everyone involved. A good way to get buy-in from the group is enabling them to own the process by finding away for everyone to participate.

When you’re designing a session consider your audience. There are different personality types and different learners so find activities that resonate well with each type well.

The two activities I enjoy the most are human bingo and constellations.

Effectively Setting Guidelines

I find it most effective to set the guidelines for behaviour and attitudes out at the beginning of a session. I like to mix a predetermined set of behaviours with the option of allowing the group to add to the list and possibly strike one they feel isn’t going to work at all.

This quick upfront collaboration gets buy-in from the group as well as group consensus so that everyone is aware of the expectations and etiquette to follow.

If during your session someone isn’t following the guidelines call them out and ask if the guidelines need to change. It’s a graceful way of giving people a chance to correct themselves or provide a suggestion to a new guideline.

Some examples:

  • One conversations at a time

  • Respect for people

  • Challenge ideas not people

  • Checking-in and checking-out of the event

  • No mobile devices (unless expecting urgent calls)

Giving Clear Instructions

A lot of facilitation is about giving the group a tasks and walking them through it. Those tasks go a lot more smoothly when clear instructions are given.

Here’s an approach I would recommend:

Start with What

  • What’s the goal of the activity?

  • What are these materials?

  • How much time do we have for the activity?

  • What information needs to be captured / measured?

Then explain How

  • Go through each step one-by-one

  • How do you achieve the goal?

  • How do you use the materials

  • How do we know that time is up?

  • How do we capture or share what was measured?

Ask for confirmation and leave room for questions

Active Listening

Let's take a page from Co-Active and Lyssia Adkins on Active Listening

Level I — Internal listening: When the coach listens at Level I, the coach hears the speaker’s words and may be very attentive, but the words get interpreted through the coach’s own lens. Everything the speaker says is met with some version of this thought in the coach’s head: How does this affect me? This coach is acting like a good listener but they're missing out on what the Speaker is actually say. The meaning and undertone behind it.

Level II — Focused listening: When listening at Level II, a hardwired connection gets established between the coach and the speaker. The coach is “over there” in the speaker’s chair—intently focused on what the speaker says. Freed from the personal lens, the coach listens and responds in the moment with the questions and silences that help the speaker move through whatever they are expressing. The coach stays focused solely on the speaker staying unbiased an none-judgmental making no assumptions or filtering the speaker through a personal lens, the coach goes with curiosity and asks questions.

Level III — Global listening: The coach uses everything in the environment when listening at Level III. The speaker’s tone of voice, posture, changes in room temperature, what noises are happening around them—all of these things are noticed and used by the coach. The Level II hardwired connection remains strong, joined by the coach’s antennae that pick up everything. When the antennae function, intuitions emerge.

Having the ability to listen at Level II and III is a great gift to give someone. Enter each conversation with a a fresh open mind so you can reach these deeper levels of listening and understanding.


Thanks for reading part two of the Facilitation Survival Guide. There are many elements to being a great facilitator. When you’re preparing you next event decide on which one or two elements you want to focus on to develop and practice your skills.

Part three of the facilitation survival guide will be coming soon. Be sure to check back often. I will share experiences and thoughts on Staying On Topic, Managing Time, A Facilitator Back-up Plan, Energizing The Crowd, Flexibility and Neutral Facilitation. You don't want to miss it.


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