Group Facilitation Techniques To Supercharge Your Discussions

Group Facilitation Techniques To Supercharge Your Discussions

Last Updated on by Milton Campbell

What is the Role Of a Facilitator?

A facilitator is someone who works with a group of people to help it become more effective. A facilitator usually does not take a particular side or position in the discussion, but rather seeks to help the group understand their common objectives and assist them in working together to achieve positive results.

The facilitator is responsible for the process of the meeting or workshop. They ensure that all participants are involved in the discussion, that conflicts are managed constructively, and that the meeting meets the goals set by its organizers.

In this article, we will be discussing group facilitation techniques to enhance your skills.

Table of Contents

What Are the Skills of a Good Facilitator?

A group of people having a discussion.

Strong listening skills. Facilitators must be able to actively listen, paying attention not only to what is being said but also noting nonverbal cues such as body language.

See Related: Master Communication Skills with These 15 Powerful Tips

Active engagement. A facilitator needs to be able to keep the attention of the group on the topic at hand, which can take creativity and energy. You may need to create activities or icebreakers so people know how to interact with each other, especially if they don’t already know each other well.

Self-awareness. As a facilitator, you will need to be aware of your own biases and assumptions so they don’t interfere with your ability to guide discussions and decision-making impartially. In addition, you should be aware of the impact that your own communication has on the group.

See Related: The Ultimate Guide for Developing Emotional Intelligence

What are the Various Group Facilitation Techniques?

  • Brainstorm
  • Consensus
  • Discussion
  • Around the Room

Brainstorm

Image of a brain with a lightning bolt coming out of it for brainstorming.

A brainstorming session is a gathering of people who come together to generate ideas. This free-flowing session is focused on generating as many ideas as possible in a short period, rather than discussing or evaluating them.

A brainstorming session is an ideal way to get lots of ideas from several people in a short period. The challenge lies in handling the group dynamic, keeping people on track, and channeling the energy into productive ideas.

To make group brainstorming sessions more effective, try the following strategies:

Encourage everyone to write down their ideas before speaking up. This allows people to develop their thoughts without interruption.

Stagger introductions so people don’t interrupt each other. Each person can speak for one minute as they share their ideas with the group.

Try individual brainstorming first, then hold a group session. Individuals can come up with ideas on their own and share them in a group setting later.

Consensus

A group consensus session is a meeting where all in attendance analyze a topic or issue and come to an agreement. The people attending the meeting can represent members of a board, business, or organization.

Group consensus sessions are intended to be democratic and collaborative. Each person present gets a say in the discussion and all involved work together democratically to reach an agreement on any given topic.

Discussion

A group discussion session is when a group of people comes together to discuss something. This could be on an agreed topic or a prompt given by the facilitator. The focus is usually on engaging with a particular topic to share knowledge and understandings.

A group discussion is an informal process and is defined as a small number of people, who are assembled to solve a problem or exchange information by discussing issues.

Discussions are an essential part of business meetings. They play a significant role in resolving problems, making decisions, and resolving conflict. If a team is to be productive and effective it must be able to effectively hold discussions and meetings.

Around the Room

Around the room is a type of group discussion technique where a facilitator goes around the room getting everyone’s opinion.

It works well for building consensus, or if you want to give everyone in the group an opportunity to participate. It opens with a question or problem statement, and each participant responds in turn. It also helps people get comfortable sharing their opinions.

How to Choose Which Technique is Best for Your Situation

Although group facilitation can be used in many situations, including training or team-building exercises among employees, it’s most commonly used when trying to solve a problem or make an important decision.

Here are some things to consider when choosing which facilitation techniques to use:

  • How many participants are involved?
  • How much time do they have?
  • What is the purpose of the discussion?
  • Is this a one-time meeting or will there be ongoing meetings?
  • Do participants need to remain anonymous during the discussion?

See Related: 13 Tips to Easily Lead a Group Discussion Successfully

Group Facilitation Tips

Ground Rules

Gavel and law book to represent the need for ground rules.

It’s a good idea to set ground rules for any group discussion, but especially so if you will be talking about sensitive issues.

Ground rules help participants feel safe and respected. They make the conversation more productive and can prevent it from getting sidetracked or derailed.

Ground rules for discussions might include:

  • Be respectful.
  • Give everyone a chance to speak.
  • No side conversations.
  • Listen without interrupting.
  • Request permission before speaking for others.
  • Don’t speak over others.
  • Don’t use jargon or acronyms that others might not understand.

Take Breaks

I’ve been a fan of the Pomodoro Technique for several years. I use it to break down my time into smaller chunks; 25 minutes of work, then a 5-minute break.

But there’s another way to use the Pomodoro Technique. To set time limits on tough conversations. Instead of doing 25 minutes of work, then taking a 5-minute break, you can do 25 minutes of discussion and five minutes of break.

And when I say “break,” I mean “do something else.” Don’t just leave the room and come back in five minutes. Go grab some water or coffee. Stand up, stretch and walk around a little bit. Or even go talk about something completely different.

Maybe you’re just having an informal chat with a co-worker about your latest project. Maybe you’re working through a conflict with your partner or spouse. Maybe you’re trying to persuade a client or customer to agree with your latest proposal.

Have a Plan

This is a basic outline for how to plan for a group discussion.

Steps

1. The first step is to take time to brainstorm ideas and concepts. You can do this by yourself, or with other people.

2. After you’ve brainstormed, think about the points you want to make in your discussion. Make a list of these points in order of importance.

3. Now, you have to think about what points you want to cover in the discussion and write them down somewhere. This is called an outline, and it will help you stay focused on your topic and not stray too far into other subjects or topics.

4. Now that you have your outline, think about what facts, stories, or examples you will use to support your points in the discussion. Write down any ideas that come to mind and add them to the outline where they fit best.

5. Next, think about who will be involved in the group discussion, then figure out if there are any problems or issues that may arise when working with this group of people. It’s important that everyone gets along during a productive discussion, so it’s good if you can prepare ahead of time for any potential problems!

See Related: 5 Easy Steps for Planning a Meeting with Free Checklist

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions are a powerful way to engage with your team and get important information. We use them all the time, but not always effectively.

Using open-ended questions can help you learn more about your team and their problems, better understand the situation, and make better decisions together.

Open-ended questions prompt conversation, insight, and discovery. They generally start with who, what, when, where or how. Open-ended questions are a great way to engage people in a discussion and encourage them to share more than just a one-word answer.

On the other hand, closed questions tend to shut down conversation and limit possibilities because they require a short answer. Closed questions usually begin with do, did, or does.

Involve All Members

People with smiles and their fists in the air in victory.

When you have a diverse group that includes introverts and extroverts, it can be hard to get everyone’s voice heard. But there are some things you can do to make sure everyone’s voice is heard as equally as possible.

One thing you can do is set a speaking order before the meeting starts. You can use an app like Whose Turn Is It, which lets you keep track of who is next to speak. This way, there’s no one dominating the conversation, and if someone wants to speak up but feels shy, they can look at the app for reassurance that their time is coming soon.

You can also have everyone write down any thoughts or ideas on paper first so that those who are quieter have a chance to collect their thoughts in private before sharing them with the group. Idea Wall makes a good tool for this, which allows members of your group to submit ideas anonymously before the meeting begins.

Final Thoughts

Now you should be better prepared for future group facilitation sessions. You know how to gauge your audience, approach the right kind of activity, communicate effectively, and more. If there’s one thing you take away from this tutorial, let it be this: facilitation is all about making sure everyone in the group has the opportunity to contribute and learn how to encourage that.

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Group Facilitation Techniques To Supercharge Your Discussions
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Milton Campbell

I'm passionate about personal and professional development. I started Growth Tactics to not only share the knowledge I've gained as a manager and leader but also improve my skills. My vision is to help people be the best versions of themselves. Let's grow together.