Tips for Facilitators
If you’ve never facilitated a discussion before, never fear! Here are some tips for addressing potential challenges you might face. You can find additional tips for facilitating dialogues in the resources listed at the end of this guide.
To get maximum participation and avoid a few voices dominating the conversation
- Make sure everyone has a chance to say something early on
- Ask: “Does anyone else have something to add?
- Say: “We seem to be hearing from the same people. Let’s give others a chance to talk.”
- Call on people by name (make sure they have nametags!) if it looks like they’re trying to jump in (“Susan, did you have something you wanted to say?”)
- Remember: the conversation should be between the attendees, not an attendee and the facilitator. Speak only if needed to clarify something or keep the conversation moving forward.
If the conversation goes off topic for too long
- Relate it back to the main question (“We started off by asking (question). How does what you’re talking about relate to
- If they continue to go off-topic say, “I hear what you are saying,
- but we need to focus on this question now.”
- Set the idea aside in a “parking lot” for future consideration
If people are reluctant to talk
- Remind them that there are no right or wrong answers.
- Pause. It may feel uncomfortable, but people need time to gather their thoughts
- Reword the question
If people argue or the conversation gets heated
- As long as it’s not mean-spirited, know that this is normal. This is an indication that the topic is interesting to attendees and that they are engaged (even though they may not agree on solutions, for example)
- Say, “There seem to be different views about this. Why do you think that is?”
- Set ground rules in advance and refer back to them.
- Take a break (“Let’s take a 5 minute break and then revisit this”)
Also, keep in mind that these dialogues are meant to be an informal way for people to get to know and learn from one another; not a formal presentation. Give it a shot! The more sessions you run the more comfortable you’ll become. Visit the STAR Net Resources Section for additional resources for facilitating Community Dialogues.