Facilitation strategies

We have all used techniques within sessions to help them run smoothly and with maximum participation. Fill in the form on the 'Form for facilitation ideas' page to share your great ideas. See the 'Responses from the form' page to view the ideas contributed.

Great websites

Tips for facilitators - Great library of tips and tricks for when facilitating sessions.

Icebreaker activities

The following guidelines are from Buzzle.com

Here are a few guidelines about what icebreakers to use and when to use them:
  • When the meeting deals with introducing group members to each other then use name games as icebreakers.
  • When the meeting requires new members to be introduced to older members then you should consider games or activities that separate people into small groups or pairs.
  • If you want all the members at the meeting to share thoughts and get to know each other, then round robin is a good icebreaker to start with or you could make them ask each other thought provoking questions.
  • If you want to diffuse any kind of nervousness, stress, tension or negative energy, then consider implementing an activity that requires a lot of movement or a question game.
  • If the group seems to be bored and dead and you want to energize the group, then make use of a fun game that requires a lot of thinking and movement.
  • If you want commitment from the group, then consider using a kind of ritual like a prayer or a song as an icebreaker.

How to Choose the Best Meeting Icebreaker?
Now that you know what the functions of icebreakers are, you should also know that a badly chosen icebreaker can cause some serious discomfort, and instead of making the meeting a success, it could break it. You’ve probably gone though those hair raising days of going for a meeting and experiencing the familiar pounding heart, the dry mouth, the fake smiles and the rising panic as your turn to introduce yourself to a whole crowd of strangers is creeping up on you slowly and steadily.
No one enjoys a meeting icebreaker if it’s making them feel uncomfortable, so it is important to choose your icebreaker wisely. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a meeting icebreaker:
  1. The size of the group – Some meeting icebreakers work well in larger groups, while others work better for smaller groups. If there are too many people in the meeting, split them into smaller groups.
  2. The purpose of the meeting – What are you going to do with the group once the icebreaker round is over? Will you be brainstorming for new ideas? Will you be discussing results? Will you be introducing a new project? Remember to match the mood of the meeting icebreaker to that of the meeting. Always be on the lookout and be prepared to switch icebreakers if you have misjudged the mood.
  3. The purpose of the icebreaker – Will it awaken the group or energize them? Will it make introductions easier? Remember that you don’t have to restrict icebreakers to the starting of the meeting. A well-timed icebreaker has the ability to encourage creativity and lift flagging energy levels.
  4. What is required – Icebreakers are effective only if they have been explained properly. Complicated meeting icebreakers require more preparation. Try to choose the simpler ones over the complicated icebreakers.
  5. What materials are required – Verbal icebreakers are the best and there are no materials required. Flip charts and pens are generally required at meetings so stick to icebreakers that require these materials. However, if you are looking for something that’s more complicated, then make a checklist of all the things that you would require and bring them along with you.
Yes, we all are a bit shy and just a little awkward in situations that require us to mingle with new and different groups. It is always best to be kind to your fellow peers and use meeting icebreakers to make them feel comfortable.

1. People bingo - participants have to find people from the group to record on their Bingo sheet that match different criteria eg 'Someone who has a blog'. Included below is an example to adapt. It is good to have a fun criteria rather than keeping it too serious.

2. Two truths and a lie - People write down two truths about themselves and a lie about themselves. The group then is encouraged to walk around joining up to talk to others to share their statements while the other person tries to guess which one is the lie. It is not revealed at that time which is the lie. To finish, each person reads their three "facts" to the rest of the group and there is a vote on which one is the lie. The person then reveals which was the lie.
3. My life as a movie - Give your participants a few minutes to imagine what kind of movie would be made about their life, and who would be cast as them. Ask each person to give their name and share their movie fantasy. Would their life be a drama with Meryl Streep as the lead? Or more like a Jim Carrey comedy? Alternatively, have everyone up and moving around to talk to each other about their choice to encourage discussion and be less threatening.
4. Maths game - Have everyone in your group pair up and introduce themselves to each other. Facing each other, each person then holds up zero to ten fingers behind their back. On the count of three, have them pull their hands from behind their backs. The first person to yell out the correct sum of all the fingers wins. Swap to a new partner and repeat. Variation is to change the type of maths operation each round moving to multiplication etc (using only one hand). Each person keeps count of the number of wins they have - see who has the most wins at the end.
5. Who am I? (or What am I?) - Prepare a sticky note for each of your participants and write on it the name of a famous man or woman OR an object or idea related to your workshop. On arrival, stick the note on the back of each participant who must then ask questions of each other in order to find out what is on their note. When they succeed, the sticky note is moved to their front.
6. What's in a name? - Ask people to move around the room and on a cue (ie music stops) find a partner to discuss background of their name. Were they named after someone? Is their name misspelled often? Do people mispronounce their name? Is their name a nickname i.e. different from their birth name? Does their name mean something in a different language? This icebreaking exercise helps everyone to remember names as the stories provide a memory hook.
7. The Bucket List - Have participants write a short list of five things they want to do before they die. Walk around the space and share their list with others and see if they can find others that have similar goals and record that person's name next to that goal. See how many matches they can find. At the end, ask for the most interesting goals people heard about as they were moving around the group.
8. Would you rather... Would you rather find true love or win the lottery? Would you rather be bald or completely hairy? Would you rather tell your best friend a lie or your parents the truth? Ask participants to make up a question like this and then move around the group introducing themselves and asking their question. You could have a variation on this where you get them to make up two scenarios related to the workshop topic eg if they are lead teachers, make up questions like 'Would you rather deal with a teacher that wants you to fix a computer during class time or try to find where a missing cable has gone from the laptop bag? You could have some cards made up with scenarios that teachers pick out to give the two options to save time.
9. What we have in common - People pair up and have time to find four things in common with each other. Then get into fours and try to find two things in common as a group.
10. Expectations - Tell the group that you would like them to introduce themselves, share their expectations of the session and then add a wild prediction of the best possible outcome should their expectations be met. Ask them to be as specific as possible, and encourage silliness or fun if you want. eg Hi, my name is Deb, and I’m expecting to learn how to handle difficult or challenging people, and my wildest expectation is that if I knew how to do that, nobody would ever get under my skin again. Ever.

Even more icebreakers
Tools for trainers
Icebreakers for small groups

Ways to group participants

1. Grouping circles - each of these sets of circles have been designed to get people into groups of three swapping groups three times by participants finding others who have the same animal, number or sweet item as they have.

2. Lining up - get participants to line up in order using different rules eg by height, by birthday, by length of time in teaching, in alphabetical order by surname, by number on their car registration etc Then count people off to make the group sizes you are looking for.
3. Coloured squares - as each participant arrives for the workshop, they take a coloured square of paper. You can then group people by the same colour or aks them to make a group with a mixture of colours.
4. Double brainstorming - Have sets of cards with a letter and number on them. Get people to get together with the same letter and then get together with the same number.

Reviewing a session

1. Ball Toss - Form a circle. Toss an object or ball to a person and have tell what they thought was the most important learning concept was. They then toss the ball to someone and that person explains what they though was the most important concept. Continue the exercise until everyone has caught the ball at least once and explained an important concept of the material just covered.
2. Quiz - team up for a light quiz about content covered. Get participants to write a question each to be included in the quiz.