Have you had the opportunity to facilitate a group discussion? It can be a lot of fun to get a small (or large) group of people to talk about a similar topic for an extended period of time.
I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate a group discussion of bankers on a quarterly basis for several years. Just earlier today, I had the opportunity to facilitate a group discussion with some young professionals. There have been many other groups I’ve facilitated as well. They are always so much fun.
From my several years of experience facilitating these group discussions, I’ve learned seven tips to make them successful.
1. Don’t be the focus – To facilitate a group discussion, you must facilitate…not dominate. Listen more than talk.
2. Have ideas for further discussion – With any group discussion, silence will creep in. To be a good facilitator, you need to have ideas of items to talk about. You can bring up those ideas and get the group to start talking about it.
3. Don’t let someone dominate – As facilitator, it’s nice to have individuals in the group who are talkative. But, if one individual dominates the discussion, the other members of the group will lose focus. It’s your job as facilitator to get other members involved in the discussion when one member starts to dominate.
4. Everyone should be able to see each other – To facilitate a group discussion, the room has to be set up to accommodate that. The best organization of chairs and tables I’ve found is a circle. In a long room, ovals may be used but they are not ideal. You want each participant to be able to make eye contact.
5. Ask everyone to introduce themselves – Nothing can get the group discussion moving like introductions. This removes the fear of speaking for most of the participants. Ask each participant to give certain information such as name, location and job position or other relevant data.
6. Ask everyone to provide updates or one item for discussion – With recurring groups, the group members get to know each other well. Ask each participant to give an update on what has occurred since the previous meeting. For nonrecurring groups, ask each participant to provide one item they want to discuss or learn about during the discussion.
7. Allow freedom – The best piece of advice to facilitate a group discussion is allowing each participant freedom. No one should be scared to talk, to ask or answer questions or to get up from their seats. The best discussions are casual discussions.
If you have not had the opportunity to facilitate a group discussion, find a way to do so. Whether it’s at work or with an organization with which your involved, ask to be involved. Two things will happen if you are able to successfully facilitate a group discussion.
First – You will be seen as an expert. If the discussion goes well, the participants will praise you for what they learned. That’s great because you shouldn’t have had to teach much. They learned from their peers. You were just the facilitator.
Second – You will learn. The biggest benefit I’ve received from being able to facilitate a group discussion is what I learn from the participants. In the forums I facilitate, I know high level information but the participants know the details.
Are you ready to facilitate a group discussion now? I hope so. You’ve got all the tools. You just need to find the audience and the confidence. You control your confidence so just find the audience.
You’ll find that, as with many things in life, the more you facilitate a group discussion, the more comfortable you’ll get. Now go do it.