In the past decade I have facilitated workshops with hundreds of groups, ranging from three to three thousand people.
These are some of the best facilitation practices I use to make most out of these sessions:
1/ Start with discussing with the group what success of the session would look like. Make an overview of the key issues by letting them answer the question “How can I….”
2/ If the group is big, divide them into smaller groups. Ask them to come up with only one most important question per group.
3/ End the session with a review of the “How can I….” questions. Discuss any issues which are still open. This ensures that participants feel it has been a worthwhile use of their time.
4/ If a group consists of individuals who are hesitant to speak up, let them discuss a question one-on-one first. Then ask what they heard from their conversation partner.
5/ Set rules of engagement at the beginning:
- Create a Parking Lot for any topic not part of the session. At the end of the session review all open items in the Parking Lot. This ensures that the discussion will remain focused on the topic at hand.
- Silence means that we are all ok with what is going on. This ensures that the entire groups takes ownership of the meeting.
- Everything discussed stays with this group, unless decided otherwise.
- Announce the end time of the workshop at the beginning. Promise to stick to this end time, provided that the group adheres to the time agreements during the session.
6/ If you start a brainstorm, give people at least five minutes to think individually, before opening up a group discussion.7/ Write down input from participants literally as it is given. Don’t modify. This ensures that people feel that it is their input.
8/ Time-box discussions to ensure you maintain momentum in the process. After the time has finished and items are still open, ask the group how they want to proceed.
9/ End with discussing how this session will be reported, what are the next steps, and what their further participation would look like.