How to facilitate meetings
As a group leader, your role is often to facilitate discussion in meetings, and coordinate the flow of comments from participants. Although it is not necessary to interject your comments after each participant speaks, periodically assisting the group with their contributions can be helpful. Here is a ten point facilitation menu (adapted from Active Training, 2013) to use as you lead group discussions.
1. Paraphrase. Paraphrase what a participant has said so that he or she feels understood and so that the other participants can hear a concise summary of what has been said. Say something like:
“What I hear Virginia saying is that we need to think carefully before changing our structure.”
2. Check for meaning. Check your understanding of a participant’s statement or ask the participant to clarify what he or she is saying.
“I think you are telling us that our plan is not audacious enough. Tell me more.”
3. Give positive feedback. Compliment an interesting or insightful comment.
“That’s a good point. I’m glad that you brought that to our attention.”
4. Expand. Elaborate on a participant’s contribution to the discussion with examples, or suggest a new way to view the problem.
“Your comments provide insight into the perspective of a CC student. How do you think a community partner might view the same situation?”
5. Change the pace. Energize or deepen a discussion by quickening the pace or slowing things down.
“Here’s a challenge for us. For the next two minutes, let’s brainstorm on this butcher paper to see how many ways we can come up with to foster collaboration between student groups.”
6. Play devil’s advocate. Disagree (gently) with a participant’s comments to stimulate further discussion.
“I can see where you are coming from, but I wonder if what you are describing is always the case. Has anyone had an experience that is different from Fransiska’s?”
7. Relieve tension. Mediate differences of opinion between participants and relieve any tensions that may be brewing.
“I think that Sarah and Adison are not really disagreeing with each other but are actually just bringing up two different sides of the same issue.”
8. Consolidate. Pull together ideas, showing their relationship to each other.
“As you can see from Eric’s and Kris’ comments, bringing stakeholders to the table early is important for lots of different reasons.”
9. Change the process. Alter the method for obtaining participation by breaking into small groups, doing free writes, or even going outside!
“Let’s break into smaller groups and spend a few minutes talking about some of the questions raised in the film.”
10. Summarize. Summarize (and record, if desired) the major views of the group.
“So it seems like today we came up with a set of four main barriers to collaboration: (1) lack of confidence in the process, (2) fear of failure, (3) comfort in doing a task oneself, and (4) concern for building individual resumes.