effective facilitation skills

Effective Facilitation Skills

Posted August 22nd, 2022

Group collaboration can be a powerful tool for any organisation in any industry. When people collaborate to achieve an end goal, opportunities are opened up for new ideas and virtually endless possibilities.

Often, to combine the collective skills and knowledge of a group of people together effectively, a facilitator is required. A facilitator is a person who helps a group work together more effectively, understand their common objectives, and plan how to achieve these objectives. Having a skilled and effective facilitator to guide a meeting or workshop can make all the difference to the outcomes of the session!

Anyone can become a facilitator, but if you’re currently in a managerial or leadership position, the chances are, that you’ll often fall into the role of facilitator, meaning being well versed in how best to encourage a group of individuals’ collective productivity is important.

As the facilitator, you are not giving direct orders or taking overt control, it just means it is your job to keep the conversation on track and encourage groups of people to work together effectively and constructively.

Why is having a facilitator important?

If their job is not to wholly lead a session, why do we need someone to act as a facilitator in settings such as meetings or workshops?

Creating an open environment. In a group setting, people can get carried away discussing or debating their point of view, or people with more outgoing personalities may take a dominant approach. Although this is often no fault of their own, this can sometimes exclude others. It is the job of the facilitator to pay attention to the development of the conversation and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to share.

Encouraging Connections. Different group settings involve different groups of people. Sometimes an inter-department meeting may occur in which people need to get acquainted with one another, or perhaps during a training session, there are a range of individuals who do not typically cross paths. The facilitator can use their position as a moderator to help people get acquainted.

This means getting people not only acquainted but also facilitating a sense of teamwork and unity.

Keep the conversation on track. The facilitator in a group environment is there to ensure the conversation goes smoothly and stays on topic. They are typically surrounded by a group of professionals, who are perfectly capable and know what to do, but the facilitator has the role of ensuring everything stays productive.

A facilitator can encourage participants to think productively, articulate ideas, ask key questions, find solutions and identify the different potential courses of action, rather than solve the team’s challenge for them.

Act as a neutral third party. A facilitator should be experienced in helping to solve disputes as a neutral individual.

Not sure where to start? Use the following tips to promote group success…

Invite participation and interaction. This can be done through prompting action and encouraging contact and dialogue.

Keep bouncing back to the group. They are the focus of the conversation, so encourage involvement. 

Promote consensus. Sometimes groups need someone to support them in finding common ground.

Support cooperation and group cohesion. Much like the above, it is important that someone is there to foster unity and encourage individuals to work together.

Experiment with new behaviour. Sometimes groups may require someone to give them a push when it comes to trying new things.

Time management. The facilitator, especially in workshops, should ensure that everyone is keeping to time so that everything can be covered. In more meeting-style environments this may mean shortcutting circular discussions and helping the team move forward.

Keep energy high. Meetings can be boring. As the person there to ensure productivity, it is the facilitator’s job to keep energy and interest high.

It’s important to note that the role can sometimes be difficult, and people may be hostile to the concept of a facilitator, especially in professional environments when individuals feel they are perfectly capable of carrying out a meeting themselves. Follow these guidelines when moderating discussions…

  • Smile
  • Use friendly, open body language
  • Be clear when giving instructions
  • Be approachable – use people’s names
  • Show that you value them as individuals
  • Have an open mind – encourage them to do the same
  • Let ideas that come out ’belong’ to the group
  • Recognise who wants to speak next – keep looking at the group
  • Try to get a general agreement before you start
  • Inject a viewpoint if ideas run dry
  • Use humour – but be careful of distracting or alienating people, avoid sarcasm as this is nearly always destructive
  • Keep it enjoyable
  • Present yourself in a way that is appropriate to the subject matter.

Skills such as active listening come into play when someone is in the role of a facilitator. Usually, those in managerial or leadership positive possess great active listening skills, these should be put into practice when facilitating!

Like any other skill, soft or otherwise, you improve with practice, and by educating yourself on the best practices. Trainer Bubble offers an extensive range of training materials in a variety of formats, including Facilitation Skills, Leadership Skills, Leading and Participating in Meetings, and many more.

Explore the full range here, or contact us to see how we can help.


Subscribe to the Trainer Bubble mailing list to receive updates on new products, special offers and all the latest industry news sent right to your inbox.