Tips for Facilitators

Below are a set of general tips and comments about facilitation that are utilized and referenced throughout the toolkit. Facilitation is a craft that can take many years to master, the list below is not intended to be a comprehensive how-to guide on facilitation, but instead as more of a reference sheet to facilitation related terms and techniques used frequently in the toolkit.

Introductions/ Ice Breakers

It is helpful to begin each of the trainings with some form of opening activity that introduces participants to each other and allows them to loosen up. Frequently, introductions set a tone or mood for the session and function as an icebreaker. Introductions also frequently include going through the ground rules, goals and agenda of the training or activity so that participants know what to expect for the session. Below is a list of sample introductory activity ideas:

  • Basic Intro Questions—Participants go around the room and introduce their name, how they found out about the training, and….

- the name of a person who inspires them;

-  a public figure, activist, or leader past or present who inspires them;

- what they have noticed about the issue of ______ in the community (insert your issue e.g. public housing, gentrification);

- a hobby or cultural activity they enjoy.

  • Talking Circles—Participants stand up and form two concentric circles where each participant is facing one other participant. Go through a set of questions related to your issue or organization and give the set of partners two minutes to introduce themselves and respond to the questions. After each participant has answered have the outer circle rotate so that everyone switches partners. Repeat. This is a good activity to get folks talking one-on-one and to feel more comfortable in the room.
  • Mocktails—Participants stand up and find a partner. The facilitator should stand on a chair or in a prominent place and read off a question. Instruct each participant to introduce themselves and to respond to the question in 1-2 minutes and then switch partners. After each partner has spoken instruct everyone to find a new partner and repeat. Keep a quick and lively atmosphere for the activity. Similar to talking circles, this is a good activity to get people talking to each other in a less formal manner.


Framing

Before diving into an activity, one task of the facilitator is to frame the activity. To do this, the facilitator will explain how the activity fits into the wider scope of your organization’s campaign or project. Whereas giving directions for an activity enables participants to understand how an activity works, framing should enable participants to understand the larger purpose of the activity and how it fits into your work.

Popcorn Questions

This is a facilitation technique where the facilitator asks participants a barrage of questions, seeking short-quick answers, rather than long-winded responses. Popcorn questions are a good technique to get ideas flowing, to encourage wider participation from members of the group who are less likely to speak up and to build energy as a big group at the beginning of a session.

Debrief

To debrief a meeting is to have a wrap-up or concluding conversation that evaluates an activity or conversation that you had during the session.  Generally it is good to go back to the goals for the activity and evaluate whether or not those goals were accomplished.   A common debrief format is for participants to discuss what they liked and what they would change about the activity, topic, or meeting.  Another helpful debrief question is to ask participants for one or two things that they learned during the activity.

Additional Resources on Facilitation:

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