Use “The Garden” Facilitation Tool
Every time you get a group of people together, there will be lots of talking, and potentially lots of tangents. When a topic comes up that you don’t have time to cover in the session, you can redirect the group to stay on task, and ask if they would like you to write the topic on easel paper so that you don’t forget to come back to it later.
Lots of people call this a parking lot, but we prefer using the term “The Garden” as this is a more strength-based term.
When you find yourself with extra time, go back to the points in The Garden. You might also have to schedule a time to go over them.
Be Okay with Silence
It’s very easy to want to fill up all the space with talking. Be okay with silence – even a couple minutes. If you put out a question to the group and no one answers right away, give them time. People need time to think and process. You could even write a few questions on a white board or easel paper, give people five minutes to process and think about it, and then start a dialogue.
If people are particularly quiet, you could try an activity or small groups to wake people up. If you are doing small groups, always lean towards groups of three, that way if someone isn’t feeling up to talking that day, they have the option to remain quiet. In a pair, they don’t have a choice.
Be Clear with Instructions
When you’re explaining steps for group activities, try to be as clear as possible. It’s very easy for people to get confused and mixed up when hearing instructions. Consider having the instructions written on a whiteboard if possible.
Learn People’s Names
Always have name tents and name tags – preferably for the whole time, but at least for the first few sessions. It’s important for you to learn people’s names, and it’s important for others to learn them too. People feel valued and accepted when others know their names.
Ask for Volunteers; Don’t Call on People.
Many people had difficult experiences in school settings growing up. Again, we want to take a trauma-informed approach that creates safety and supports choice. One of the ways we ensure that safety is by never calling on people directly. If you want to ask a question, put the question out to the whole group, not directly to one individual. If you want someone to help with something in the session, ask for volunteers. Take a “popcorn” approach with everything. That means that people volunteer to speak up when they are ready, rather than going around in a circle.
Create a space where people feel empowered to take care of themselves.
As a facilitator, it’s your role to guide the group learning process, present the material in a way that meets the group’s varying needs and create a safe learning environment. However, it’s not your role to take care of everyone’s individual needs. This is why it’s important to begin each session with a dialogue about supporting oneself; remind students that you’ll give breaks according to the schedule, but if someone needs to take a break for a phone call or some fresh air, then create an environment where people feel empowered to do that.
As a facilitator, it’s essential that you’re always aware of the time. Managing time can be one of the most challenging parts of facilitation, especially if you have a keen group of participants who like to share ideas.
Check in with the group throughout the training to see how things are going. Ask where people are at, if there’s anything that needs more clarification. At the end of each session, you can spend a bit of time doing a little debriefing brainstorm. You’ll also want to create an evaluation for the end of the training. You can ask them about the training space, the content, the learning, the facilitation, etc.