4 of 11: Suggested Facilitation Strategies – Choosing Methodologies that are Appropriate for the Group and Interesting for You, the Facilitator

Sometimes it is the methodology that is a challenge. How do you go about choosing methodologies that (a) are appropriate and motivating for the group; and (b) interesting for you?

Here are a few strategies to consider:

(1) Work with your client (and potentially the participants in advance of the event) to learn about the participants – their experience in meetings and workshops, as well as their learning styles and cultures.  Can the client provide you with specific information on participants?  Or is the client drawing on (sometimes unreliable) stereotypes in the absence of first hand information?  Remember that there are always exceptions to the rule / stereotype.  

(2) Find out about the groups’ experience with facilitation.  Have they ever had a professional facilitator? Do they have a different facilitator every week? Which methodologies are they familiar with?  Which are their favourites and why?  With which are they bored / fatigued? Are they sick of facilitators “trying too hard” and making it more about the methodology than outcomes? What is their appetite for trying new things?

(3) Assess whether it’s appropriate to try the latest, creative idea you picked up and have been eager to test-run; or whether the group is taking its first baby-steps towards an interactive and participatory approach, and they need a softly-softly approach for now (small group discussion may be a revelation!) – until you have built their confidence in you and expert facilitation practice.

(4) In general, try to design into the agenda a variety of approaches including individual work (which may be silent thinking time), conversation in pairs, small group work and (usually minimal) plenary discussion.  And be attentive to the sequencing so that even if someone won’t speak in plenary, they may have already had the opportunity to shared their ideas in a smaller group context and others who are more vocal can then carry their contributions forward in plenary.

(5) Look to design activities that provide participants with choice in terms of the way they approach it.  They might surprise you with their creativity!  For example, if you need to do a quick visioning exercise, rather than prescribing the means by which people need to report back a small group conversation to the group you might ask them to produce one of the following of their choice: a graphic representation, a series of behaviour-over-time graphs, a newspaper front page, a webpage, a keynote speech, a slogan, a role-play, a poem, a rap, a mime, a shop window, a UN notice board, or to come up with something totally their own.

(6) If you’re a “learner”, keep things interesting for you by signing up to facilitation blogs like www.welearnsomething.organd e-newsletters, such as Thiagi.com for workshop games, or follow facilitators on Twitter for tips and tools.  Join the International Association of Facilitators, or a local branch near you.

(7) Remember that methodologies are only as good as the questions you ask.  Whilst you may be keen to have some fun and try something new, the most important thing to focus on is whether or not you are asking the right questions, in the right way. 

Related blog posts:
10 Different Ways to Do Anything?  Get Inspiration Everywhere http://welearnsomething.blogspot.ch/2011/04/10-different-ways-to-do-anything-get.html
Me and My Multiple Intelligences.  We and Ours
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