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Tips for Facilitating a Small Group Discussion

Tips for Facilitating a Small Group Discussion

1.) What is a Facilitator?

This person is in charge of the meeting and moves the meeting along.


2.) What is the Facilitator Responsible for?

  • Keeping the group on track and away from tangents
  • Watching the vibe of the meeting and helping to keep energy up
  • Making sure everyone participates and no one dominates
  • Creating a safe and positive environment (protects people from personal attack)
  • Creating a comfortable environment - using language that makes everyone comfortable
  • Intervening if problems come up, dealing with concerns
  • In general, facilitators should remain as neutral as possible.

3.) What if I want to speak?

If you want to actively participate in the discussion, you should probably ask someone else to facilitate the group discussion.

4.) What kind of structure should we follow?

The structure can take on various forms. For instance, you can all stay in one large group or break into smaller groups and come back together at the end. It's really up to you and your group. Either way, you should set up some basic ground rules and follow through on them.

5.) How much time should we take?

That's up to you and your guests. But make sure you agree on it before you start the discussion. You can always extend the time, but it's good to start with a rough idea. Allow enough time for discussion. Good discussions take some time for warm-up, reflection, and maximum input.

6.) What should we talk about?

The discussion should really come from the people in attendance. That is why we highly recommend that you start off by having people introduce themselves and then tell you what they are interested in talking about. If it seems like people are all over the place in terms of interest, you might want to consider breaking into groups by subject.

7.) How should we file a report?

You might consider having someone there on a computer, taking notes as you go along. Ultimately, we want to know what you are thinking in your area, so please use the questions we have provided you as a guide.

8.) Any additional tips on things to look out for?

  • Help people avoid repeating themselves by summarizing discussion and asking only for comments in areas that haven't been mentioned
  • Make suggestions for how to move forward - after discussion has gone on for a while, try to summarize, look for agreement or sticking points, and come to decision Ask questions
  • Be positive and encourage full participation - make sure everyone gets to speak, try to notice when someone is holding back
  • Focus on issues, not personalities
  • Check briefly for understanding before moving on
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