1 Set group norms and ground rules at the first meeting.  This could mean that you set the norms as a group, or that you establish them as the facilitator. These norms might consist of things like: listening respectfully, not interrupting others, asking questions thoughtfully, and receiving questions without getting defensive, and more. Other norms that we often suggest include:

    1. Engage in this journey with an expectation of good will for yourself and each other.
    2. Embrace your own and each other’s discomfort.  These topics are often quite emotional and often make it difficult to hear and be heard.
    3. Acknowledge that each of us is here to learn and that learning is difficult
    4. Give the benefit of the doubt.  We are not all as articulate as we might wish, especially when discussing these topics.  Ask for clarification.  Gently question assumptions.
    5. Be present (especially if virtual, disconnect from other devices with the exception of the meeting platform).

2 Provide an agenda before the group meets each time so that they know what to expect. Be clear about what you would like to accomplish at the meeting, and give participants questions for reflection prior to the session.

3 If your group is virtual, please be sure that everyone has their name on their screen, so that you can all use one another’s names.  Consider also asking people to share their pronouns. If you are meeting in person, use name tags or name plates.

4 Make sure to call people in the order in which they raised their hands.  This is often quite easy in a virtual environment, since many platforms provide this.  But, if you are meeting in person, keep a list so that everyone speaks in their turn.

5 Something that helps us approach facilitation is by coming from a place of learning and growing as individuals ourselves. It often helps to be transparent about that approach and to say that you are there to travel alongside the group as a learning partner on this journey.

6 If someone is off-topic, it is alright to put a pin in what they are sharing and redirect them back to the discussion at hand

Additional Facilitator Guides for Reference

There are many excellent, free guides for facilitation. Here are some of our favorites to help you with your own important work.