Friday, April 27, 2012

Facilitation Friday #17: Reminders for Designing and Facilitating an Effective Session

Making a list and checking it twice?  It's not just for Santa.  You can leverage the power of the checklist to help ensure the key elements of effective facilitation are present at east stage of your effort.  Many people think of event prep in terms of before, during, and after.  For facilitation, however, I'd suggest breaking the during stage into finer segments: opening, the core, closing.

In your facilitation efforts the opening on-ramps you use can dramatically increase how quickly the group can "get into traffic" and accelerate progress towards its goals.  Your closing off-ramps can help ensure valuable insights and actions don't get lost for the next journey as well as reinforce the desired relationships among the participants.

While I'll address ramping up and winding down in a subsequent post, here are some of the high level reminders included in my own facilitation prep lists.  Think of these as the Roman numerals in an outline with much more detail underneath.  Because that detail is specific to individual facilitation style, use the markers listed below as a template or starting point for the checklist you might create for yourself.

Before
Clarify purpose and objectives.
Conduct background research and preparation.
Gather data: participants, stakeholders, internal and external sources.
Design agenda with activity options for each segment.
Plan for the environment.
Communicate with participants: socialization and orientation to session.
Prepare any necessary materials (slides, handouts, reading, etc.).

Opening
Clarify session purpose, objectives, flow.
Identify what will be needed from participants to accomplish session goals.
Surface what each participant can contribute and how s/he might participate.
Clarify roles and expectations.
Create safe space for people to speak up, take risks, challenge norms, etc.

During the Core
Dig beneath the surface, distinguishing between symptoms and the problem.
What? So what? Now what? Move from idea to action.
What’s not being said?
Remain mindful of energy and engagement level: vary techniques as needed.
Watch participation patterns; adapt facilitation as needed.
Check in periodically: how are we doing so far?

Closing
Review results in relation to stated goals.
Revisit original agreements: how did we do?
Identify lessons learned: what do you want to remember for your future efforts?
Review individual commitments and next steps.
Celebrate successes.

After
Share observations and recommendations; provide additional resources.
Follow-up on commitments made during session.
Conduct self-assessment; capture lessons learned; share as appropriate with colleagues.
Debrief with key contact(s).
Conduct evaluation (if not done on-site).

What are other major reminders you would include in these various stages?

To find earlier posts in these 2012 series, search for the label: facilitationfriday. 

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