Facilitation Skills: Presence and Presentation Skills

A meeting is any time two or more people come together to accomplish something in particular. What is achieved depends greatly on how you plan in advance, interact with leaders and participants, set the stage for the work ahead, adjust your strategy as needed, and bring closure.

Guidelines for Facilitation

The following provides guidance in these areas. (adapted from Oakley & Krug, 1991; and materials available at the change agency.org)

ladiestalking_image002temp_001_facilitationskills_presentationEstablish a strong partnership with the leader or chairperson: Make sure that both of you mutually agree on what your objectives are, how they will be accomplished and how you will be working together.

Explain your role and responsibilities to the group: Clarify what you will do, what you will not do, and how you will help them achieve their objectives.

Focus your attention on the goals of the group: Don’t let fear, nervousness or other emotions keep you from serving the group’s needs and don’t let your facilitation skills serve as a vehicle for your personal and professional growth.

Always use a systematic approach: At the beginning of every meeting or training session, state the purpose of the meeting or program, review the agenda and then clarify roles.

Test frequently for understanding of basic assumptions and agreements: This will help to avoid misunderstandings as you work through the process.

When necessary, just say “no”: If an assignment is not a good opportunity for you to provide service, turn down the request to facilitate. If all you are going to do is write-up the minutes of a meeting, handle other administrative tasks, or serve as a vehicle for the chairperson’s desire to pursue a hidden agenda, decline the opportunity to facilitate. If you can’t say no, make a counter offer by suggesting what you can and should do.

Meeting Enhancers

When we begin, end and keep the meeting on track, value can be added to the quality of the meeting and the results produced. This leads to high levels of trust and cooperation (Butler, 1996).

Openers: Reinforce What Is Important

The following questions suggest ways that any meeting can be started and can build a foundation of trust, openness and cooperation:

  • What have you accomplished since we last met?
  • What are you working on right now that you are excited about?
  • What has your team learned from its progress on this project?
  • What’s something you would like to be acknowledged for?
  • What do you appreciate about __________(team member)?
  • How would you describe what you’d like to accomplish in this meeting?

Keeping Aligned: Ask Open Questions

  • What’s making the most sense about what we’ve covered so far?
  • What could I do to help us better achieve our goals for the meeting?
  • How can I support you?

Meeting Closers: Let the Group Be the Last to Talk

  • What have you appreciated most from the time we have spent together today?
  • What have been the two or three biggest benefits you’ve received from this meeting today?
  • In what specific ways will you be able to apply what you have learned?
  • What have you learned that might help us to be a better team?
  • What can you be counted on to do?

The 'Never Evers' of Workshop Facilitation

Much has been written about planning effective workshops and staff development sessions. Many of these articles provide specific ways to increase the effectiveness of the session. These articles have generally suggested “what works” in workshops.

Experience and research also indicate certain things that a facilitator should never do during a workshop. I have gleaned these “never evers” from observing other presenters, conducting my own workshops, consulting with experts, and reading the literature. As a thoughtful reminder place this list of “never evers” near your other workshop materials.

  • Never ever forget that individuals at the workshop are unique, with needs, interests, and experiences particular to them.
  • Never ever require individuals to participate in an activity.
  • Never ever talk to participants as if they are children.
  • Never ever ridicule participants or their experiences.
  • Never ever neglect the participants’ personal needs.
  • Never ever say that you are going to rush through and compress material in order to complete what is usually a longer workshop in a shorter length of time.
  • Never ever say that you would have brought more materials if it had been possible.
  • Never ever tell participants what you’ve forgotten.
  • Never ever give excuses.
  • Never ever read from a lengthy prepared text.
  • Never ever share illegible handouts.
  • Never ever share a disorganized “mishmash” for a handout.
  • Never ever give participants something to read and then read it to them.
  • Never ever share overhead transparencies that participants cannot see or read.
  • Never ever share with participants a workshop schedule that is impossible to follow.
  • Never ever go past the scheduled time.
  • Never ever forget that you have an audience.
  • Never ever take the workshop so seriously that everyone (including the facilitator) cannot have fun.
  • Never ever plan a workshop without considering this list of never evers.


Butler, A. S. Team Think. (1996). The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Oakley, E. and D. Krug. (1991) Enlightened Leadership: Getting to the Heart of Change.  Simon & Schuster.

Sharp, P.A. (Dec-Jan. 2000). The ‘Never Evers’ of Workshop Facilitation. Tools for Schools, National Staff Development Council,  [NOTE: details summarized in the link above by the same name]

Adapted with permission from Soil and Water Conservation District Outreach: A Handbook for Program Development, Implementation and Evaluation. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Soil and Water Conservation, 2003.