What is the purpose of facilitation?
Facilitation is a tool used to make meetings more organized, clear, inclusive, and supportive. This page is here to help more folks both within and outside of the MACC sphere understand facilitation, and feel empowered to become facilitators!
What does the facilitator typically do?
The role of the facilitator is very flexible. Overall, the facilitator should aim to understand the group and scenario they're facilitating in order to help fulfill what the group needs to move ahead.
Here are some key things that you would typically do as a facilitator:
Kick off group intros
In order to create a safe and inclusive space, you ought to have everyone go around and say their name and pronouns. This way, everyone will become acquainted and will know how to safely address one another!
Ensure other roles are present
Some other roles that meetings may have are Note takers and Stack keepers. Before the meeting begins, it's nice to ensure these roles are filled if they're needed. You may also have a co-facilitator.
State the purpose of the meeting
Before getting into the creation of the agenda, make sure the group agrees on the general purpose of the meeting. This can help avoid any confusion, and generally helps keep the agenda on topic!
Create an agenda with the group
After everyone knows one another, it's your job to kick off the creation of an agenda and make sure the group feels comfortable with the chosen agenda points.
⏰ TIP -- Be mindful of time! It's part of your role to make sure the agenda works within the given time that your group has allotted to the meeting. If you feel the agenda is too long, facilitate a conversation about time-boxing or tabling certain agenda points.
Check the vibes
This part of the role is really significant! As facilitator, you should stay alert and aware when it comes to the group participant vibes. This means being cognizant of the emotional, mental, and physical needs of everyone throughout the meeting/conversation. As facilitator, you should feel empowered to check in with the group if something feels off or unsafe. You should also feel empowered to let folks know if they are taking up ample space in the conversation compared to other participants.
Keep track of time
This sounds like common sense, but it can be easily forgotten! It's good practice to give time checks as often as you need based on the agenda and how you've time-boxed different topics. If you don't plan on time-boxing, it's good to let folks know when you've reach the halfway mark on the meeting time.
You can checks for consensus and temperature checks for decisions as needed. The decision making processes that groups and working groups feel comfortable with can vary - so it's best to understand or establish those beforehand. Some common processes used for consensus are Fist of Five or Twinkle Fingers.
Some handy tips for facilitators
Make everyone feel heard
Use clarifying statements, paraphrasing, or writing points out to show that you are listening, hearing, and actively trying to understand the group.
Keep the group on track
You should feel empowered to remind folks about the agenda and the meeting purpose. Make sure that the group isn't veering off track - and when that does happen, clearly and patiently remind everyone of the agenda points that were agreed upon.
Check your bias and step back
You are absolutely an active participant in the meeting, but be sure to check yourself and make sure you aren't taking up more space than others. It's typically good practice to put yourself last on stack when speaking. If at any point you realize your opinion or feelings on a topic could affect your ability to facilitate impartially, simply ask for help or pass the role on.
Communicate your needs & ask for help
You have very valid needs as a facilitator, so don't hesitate to make those known. If you feel you need a co-facilitator or any of the roles mentioned above, you should feel empowered to ask! If you feel you aren't doing a good job at facilitating, it's more than okay to check in with the group and ask if their needs are being met.
The best route to becoming a skilled facilitator is asking for feedback that will help you learn and grow! 🌱