Facilitation tip – introducing new ideas

I gave a friend some feedback on his facilitation style recently. I suggested the he “introduce new ideas really well and stuff.”  Great advice, but perhaps not very specific or useful.

Then I ran a facilitation related course and gave people feedback on, among other things, presenting ideas to the team.  There seemed to be a pattern where people were passionate about what they were saying, but not clear on exactly how to say it.

So what does “introducing new ideas really well and stuff” entail?

Firstly, passion and authenticity count. But there are also some basic mechanical steps that you can take to structure a message so that you are clear on what you want to say and the audience is more likely to take it in.

A really simple approach

The most basic approach to introducing a new topic in a workshop is this:

  • Say something true (or more accurately – something the audience agrees with);
  • Add a complication or interrupting thought; and
  • Then say what you want to say.

This is a universal story telling technique.  For example

“This is a course on facilitation (true) but the word facilitation means different things to different people (complication) so next we should explore the meaning of facilitation (what I wanted to say)”

By saying something true, we get  a level of engagement.  Then by adding a complication, we hope to create a question in the audience’s mind.  Then we provide our answer.

Changing the final statement to a question

When we say something true and then add a complication, we hope to create a question in the audience’s mind.  But rather than answer the question ourselves, we can throw the question open to the group:

This is a course on facilitation (true). But facilitation means different things to different people (complication). What does it mean to you?

Similarly, you could run an exercise to answer the question.  Here is a slightly more controversial point that I might want to discuss:

We are business analysts and we all know that the role is important (true – or at least accepted as true).  But I often here the suggestion that business analysts are not needed on agile projects (complication).  So in this activity we will explore when and how a BA might add value in an agile project.

Now that i have framed the problem, I can use an approach like FEC (frame, open, consolidate) to run the activity.   You can see an example of FEC in a workshop here – FEC.

Slightly more complex

Some people have adapted this simple introduction to focus more specifically why people should care about the next activity or statement. They do this by splitting the complication into a pain (you will suffer if you ignore the idea) and then a gain (a benefit of adopting the idea).

This structure is designed to involve both people who run away from things and those who like to move towards things (Which are apparently things that cause people to be interested).

For example:

Next I want to cover facilitation skills (True enough).

If you don’t know how to facilitate, then you will never work on fun projects again (the complication that is a pain or risk)

Mastering facilitation will open up great roles on projects and also open up new opportunities outside project life (the complication that is a gain or benefit if we complete the next section)

So let’s look at what skills good facilitators need …

So that is what I mean by “present stuff clearly.”  Each of the approaches here will get the message across so that you can move forward.

Each forces you to clarify what you mean and each frames information in a way that is easy to absorb.

Next time I will talk about some more complex approaches that you can use, when you need extra ammunition before people will accept what you are saying.

But in the meantime give these approaches a try – I think you will find that they work well.



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