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Facilitation Tips

You may be asking right about now, “What about when I am actually in front of the group? What do I do then?” You already know part of the answer because it lies in your own presentation skills. In addition, chapter 4 offered you some advice about facilitating. Now, table 6-2 provides additional tips to get you going.

Table 6-2. Facilitation tips.
Ask questions to gain participation.Ask open-ended questions that invite response, especially “what” and “how” questions. Close-ended questions stifle participation. Use closed-ended questions only when you want to end discussion and move on.
Use transitions.Learners need to know when one topic has closed and another has begun. Transitions don’t have to be fancy. A statement as simple as “Now that we have discussed A, let’s move on to B” works well.
Control discussions.Regardless of the participation level, you are still in charge. You can choose to move on when it’s appropriate by saying something like, “OK, one more comment and then we have to move on.” If the discussion becomes repetitive, take control and make a transition to the next subject.
Remain neutral.If the group gets into a debate about a particular point, clarify and summarize both sides, and then move on. Don’t express your own opinion (unless the debate concerns a factual matter) because the participants who have the opposite opinion may feel put down.
Don’t wing it.Winging it carries some very big risks; you might go on time-consuming tangents, you might lead yourself into a discussion that is not appropriate, or you might steal your own thunder for a later subject.
Affirm.Find something to reinforce and affirm in every comment. You can always affirm a person’s effort at participation. When you treat people with respect, they will feel comfortable participating.
Watch and respond to body language.Say, “Joe, you look puzzled. Is something not making sense?”
Don’t be afraid of silence.Sometimes people are simply thinking and need a little time. When you ask a question, mentally count to 10 (slowly!) before asking again or redirecting the question.
Debrief thoroughly.Plan key questions that you will ask at the end of an activity or exercise to be sure that the participants get all of the important points. Don’t ad lib a debriefing session! Highlight the lessons learned for each activity.
Reprinted with permission from Deb Tobey LLC, 2003.



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