Guest post by Katie Zink. Trained by Oregon Humanities and licensed by Flourish Training, Katie Zink helps visionary leaders and change agents create dynamic workplace cultures where employees thrive. As a consultant and trained facilitator, she loves leading reflective conversations, delivering workshops, and helping clients reach solutions, all by using her facilitation skills. Connect with Katie on LinkedIn.
In today's world, many of us crave a sense of belonging, connection, and community.
With so much of our time spent online, one thing has become clear: there's no replacement for human connection.
We can add more of that personal touch and human connection we’ve missed so dearly. It’s all. about. facilitation.
A strong facilitator can take a meeting from pointless to productive, an audience from clueless to captivated, and a project from dreaded to done. Remember this: Facilitation = Human Connection
Who can Facilitate?
Anyone leading an organized group of people toward a shared objective is in a facilitator role.
It’s the team’s manager who calls a meeting to share updates on when customers can expect a new product release and ensures everyone is clear on the communication plan.
It’s the project manager keeping everyone informed on timelines, changes, and obstacles.
Outside of work, you know that friend who's the planner, connector, and is even just a good listener? Boom, facilitation. We like these friends, right?
Every facilitator has a different style and every group will have different dynamics. This is what makes facilitation so exciting. A skilled facilitator adapts to the needs of the group. They can get people talking. They know how to feel out certain personalities, opinions, and sensitivities a group may have.
What is it exactly, though?
Facilitation is providing the necessary resources, information, and support in order for learners or participants to complete a task.
Kinda sounds like teaching, right?
Facilitation is different (but not mutually exclusive) from teaching. Teachers help students acquire new skills or knowledge by telling them information about a subject area. There’s a measurable outcome at the end like a grade. Teachers are usually content experts and they typically have all the right answers.
Facilitators moreso help participants with their experience of a meeting by guiding the overall process. Good facilitators know that it’s less about them and more about the group. They ask the right questions to help people make discoveries on their own and bring the wisdom out of the people in the room.
Now, what are those actual moments when we can tell that facilitation is happening?
It’s when your boss asks everyone to share how they’re doing or what they’re focusing on individually at the beginning of the meeting to allow everyone in the meeting a chance to speak.
It’s when participants are sharing during a workshop and the facilitator builds a common theme between what’s shared to cultivate psychological safety and a sense of belonging.
It’s during a Brainstorming Session when ideas are gathered in an organized fashion and maybe the facilitator delegates a note taker to capture ideas or respond to the chat window (rotates the role) to encourage balanced participation.
Ready to learn some practical ideas for better facilitation? Let’s take a look at our top 5 favorite facilitation techniques.
1. Create Community Agreements
Community agreements are a set of basic ground rules that we ask participants to follow. It can take the form of a living document you may revise throughout the long term duration of your meetings. The goal is to create an open and inclusive space so that every individual feels safe, seen, and heard. When expectations of the group are made clear and visible to all, people can better trust they’ll be respected and safe to share openly in a meeting or workshop.
2. Check Ins
Check Ins are a simple and natural way to foster human connection. They can either be work related or non work related and usually happen at the beginning of a meeting once everyone arrives. The facilitator will ask the group to go around the room and answer a simple prompt like, “how are you today?” If participants don’t know each other, this is an excellent opportunity for individuals to share their names and something unique about them. Because facilitation is about human connection, building in those opportunities for everyone to get to know each other (if they don’t already) is key.
3. Review an Agenda and the Desired Outcomes, Together
This is a technique that allows your participants the opportunity to pause, reflect on what’s been said, with an opportunity to speak aloud. When speaking, participants may ask a question, make an observation, or otherwise verbally process the content of the meeting. We call it a two minute 360, because it’s just that.
There you have it! So remember, facilitation is all about ensuring equal and balanced opportunities for participation, building a sense of belonging, and nurturing psychological safety when we work together in groups.
Whether you're leading a routine team meeting, brainstorming session, or even your next social gathering, good facilitation skills result in better quality interactions, more creative ideas, and stronger connections.