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Epistemic status: Anecdotal but strong. Most of this is based on practical experience and things I learned through word-of-mouth.

Here, I’d like to present some pieces of facilitation advice I’d give my former self. I’ve selected this list for things that I wouldn’t have found obvious at all, and that became crucial to the way I lead groups. I hope this post helps some of you run even better events.

0. About me.

I facilitated a number of different gatherings in a number of contexts over the last ten years: Retreats, discussion rounds, reading groups, authentic relating games, communication trainings, a secular solstice, meditation sessions, two sessions of a self-organized Krav Maga study group (my life sometimes takes weird turns), and probably a bunch of other things I forgot.

Audiences I have experience with range from teacher trainees over political student groups and Esperantists all the way to EAs and rationalists. I trained with the Ruth Cohn Institute for TCI International and Authentic Revolution. I received mentorship from experienced counseling trainers, Circling/Authentic Relating facilitators, and an Active Hope workshop facilitator.

In total, I probably gathered 1000+ hours of facilitation experience.

So, here you go for the 80/20 version of what I've learned in these years.

1. If you get the beginning right, the group almost leads itself. If not, you are doomed.

When we enter a new group, all of us come with a number of implicit questions: Will these people like me? Is it safe here, can I show up with my edges and quirks without getting hurt or exploited? Will this be valuable for me?

As a facilitator, it is my task to enable participants to answer these questions for themselves. If I don’t make space for that, the group I lead will be distracted by the unmet needs that underlie these questions: Belonging, safety, meaning.

Saving time at the start of a group by ignoring these questions is not effective. Because then, people are only half-engaged with the topic at hand, and (at best) half-distracted by trying to figure out how to answer these questions despite my facilitation, not because of it.

So, what can you do to help people answer them?

a. Will these people like me?

The best strategy depends on a number of factors: The group size, the task at hand, and, first and foremost, the duration and format of the group work. Is it a one-off evening event? A weekly recurring meetup? A weekend retreat? A recurring program with intense contact that runs over several months? The longer the group stays together and the more personal the task at hand, the more investment into trust-building is necessary. Not only upfront, but also along the way.

A quick-and-dirty version of trust-building I like to do for shorter one-off events or recurring evenings should contain all of these three elements within the first 30 minutes:

i. Greet participants personally and individually.

…or have a co-facilitator or veteran member of your community do it for you. Bonus points for not needing to glance at name tags, and for making a genuine effort to pronounce their names correctly, regardless of whether you know their native language.

Of course, this is not possible in very large groups or online events. In those cases, you can cover part of this function by putting a lot of care into the opening mail, both regarding content and writing style.

ii. Enable at least one 1-on-1-interaction with another group member.

A short 1-on-1-conversation does wonders for turning strangers into friends. While talking to every group member 1-on-1 is overkill, it is massively grounding for new people in a group to know that they have at least one friend there. With an even number of participants, I don’t join in on this exercise; with an odd number, I do.

My standard format looks somewhat like this:

“Find yourself a partner. ... Now, I will give you a prompt and each of you has two minutes to respond, while the other just listens. We switch roles in the middle. ... The prompt is […]  ... Please start NOW!”

The prompt I use usually is some variation of: “How are you doing right now?”, “What do you hope to get out of this?”, “What got you interested in topic x?”, etc. Basically everything that should be relevant for them in the moment, and helps them get to know each other a tiny bit.

If a group works together more than one day on end, I tend to do several rounds of this, while encouraging people to pick new partners they have hardly interacted with so far. What works amazingly well here in more contexts than you’d think is gratitude prompts:

  • “Something I’m grateful for right now is…”
  • “Somebody who inspires me is…”
  • “Something I’m really fucking proud of is…”
  • “What fills my life with purpose is…”
  • … 

This even works with very large audiences. If you hold a lecture for 300 people, you can still ask them to turn to their neighbor and talk about what they want to get out of the talk for a couple minutes.

iii. In groups ≤25 participants, have everyone speak in the whole group once.

For many people, it is a challenge to speak in a room full of strangers. Because of that, I like to make members of a new group practice this behavior in a safe, highly structured context at the start of groups. Then, they are more comfortable speaking up later on, when there’s less structure. One prompt I like to use:

“Please tell us your name, and one thing you’d like us to know about you. That can be a hobby, pronouns you use that people might not be aware of at first glance, some other thing that might confuse or irritate people if they aren’t aware of it - whatever you like.”

Then, I start with my name, and a fact about myself that is slightly more vulnerable than people would expect in whichever setting we’re in:

“I’m Severin, and I spent half of last night drafting a new EA Forum post. So if I yawn or lose focus for a moment, forgive me - it’s not about you, it’s about me not having figured out how to do regular work hours.”

It’s mind-blowing how rapidly and readily people open up once they hear this.

“I’m a bit neuroatypical. If I stare at you angrily while you talk, that’s because I pay attention to what you say instead of controlling my facial expressions.”

Or, in a group of 18 strangers, after just 10 minutes, they say something like this:

“I get overwhelmed easily in groups of people. I might withdraw and leave the group at some point during this evening. No reason for concern, just let me do my thing.”

b. Is it safe here?

For groups focused on a non-personal task, like a Giving Game, or a reading group, I don’t usually feel like more than the above is needed. For workshops that can get more personal, like rationality skill training, Authentic Relating games nights, or some forms of career planning, it makes sense to have everyone consent to explicit group norms that ensure safety.

For evening-long one-off or recurring events, I like to use some version of the traditional Authentic Relating agreements, and get explicit consent from everyone through nods or thumbsup gestures. My favorite set of rules with medium-length explanations looks like this:

i. “Honor self. Everything we do here is voluntary. If an exercise we do doesn’t suit you, feel free to adapt it to your needs or step out. Be ready to challenge yourself, because that’s necessary for growth to happen. At the same time, be mindful of your boundaries. In short: Lean into your edge, but don’t fall over.”

ii.“Honor other. Be aware that everyone else here is a person with feelings and needs, too. Be firm in your boundaries, but be kind and respectful with each other. For example, if you step out of an exercise, help the other person adapt it in a way that it still works for them. Be on time, and if you come late, let the others know.”

iii.“Confidentiality by request. Different people have very different intuitions for what is confidential and what is okay to share with the whole world. Plus, if people meet in different contexts, it can get hard to remember what has been said in a confidential and what in a non-confidential setting. For these two reasons, the rule I’d like to play by in this group is ‘confidentiality by request’, not a blanket confidentiality agreement: If you share something and notice that you want it not to be shared with others, you get to ask them to keep it confidential. This is great practice for life, too.”

For groups that meet for more than a weekend, whether on end or recurringly, I like to make the participants set rules themselves. Here are two prompts I particularly like. The framing nudges participants to take care of enforcing the norms themselves, rather than handing them as a wishlist to me as the facilitator:

i.“What do I want to hold high in our work together?”

ii.“What should not happen here?”

c. Will this be valuable for me?

The most common reason why people don’t get much value out of an event is that they don’t know why they are there in the first place. Because of that, I like to start by making participants reflect on what they want to take home. It makes a ton of a difference when facilitators do that for unfocused me, and in my experience, others profit from it, too.

In groups that stay together long enough that I can adjust course along the way, having this public knowledge can be very valuable. In those contexts, I sometimes like to have people name their motivations in the whole group. Sometimes, I even make time to collect peoples’ goals on index cards and put them on a wall. Occasionally, I have participants stop, think, and remove the cards which got answered or became irrelevant in the meantime.

In shorter formats or very large groups, it suffices to have participants think about their goals on their own or with a partner. This can easily be combined with the early 1-on-1-exchange I suggested above.

2. You can’t predict and control what happens in a group. And you don’t need to.

All things considered, all human beings are pretty much the same. They usually have a sort of similar number of eyes, ears, and limbs. They come in roughly the same size and shape. They share the same needs and basic emotions. Most if not all of them are white, cis male, heterosexual, come from academic households, have utilitarian priorities, are longtermists, and have an econ or STEM degree from an elite Uni in the US or UK. (Okay, maybe humans are not that similar after all.)

When you plan a workshop for a group of 15 people, you will inevitably fall for the typical mind fallacy and plan for 15 people who are copies of you. But! In a group of 15 people, there are 15 different reasons why people are interested in the topic at hand. There are 15 different degrees of introversion and extraversion. There are 15 different learning styles. 15 different levels of intelligence. 15 different genetic makeups and personal biographies that give people 15 different sets of strengths, weaknesses, and triggers.

You probably knew all this already, but I made my fair share of embarrassing mistakes. For example, nobody bothered to tell 23-year-old hippie me beforehand that not everyone in a mandatory seminar for teacher trainees is into long and intense eye gazing exercises.

If experiences like these occasionally keep you, too, awake at night: What I’ve found most valuable for preventing them is to not even try to create an experience for the group as a whole. Instead, I try to hand over as much power as reasonably possible and enroll the group for co-creating together whatever suits them. Always by silently tracking the flow of the group and adjusting my plans accordingly, and in critical situations where I’m unsure, sometimes by asking the whole group for input. Here are some strategies I found helpful for that.

a. Hold your intentions strongly and your plans lightly.

One day, I held an Authentic Relating games night in a friend’s living room, as a facilitation practice experiment for both of us. We met up over dinner to make a beautiful plan, published a wonderful advertisement text on Facebook, and invited a carefully selected crowd of friends and strangers.

Then, the subway stopped due to some technical problem. I had to find a different connection, and came ten minutes late to my own workshop. Right after my arrival, somebody entered the room, stared at another guest, stepped back, the other guest left, and my co-facilitator went after them. The two had broken up a month before, and not on good terms.

Well, there went our plan out the window.

In situations like these, it is important to see what the group actually needs rather than stick to the plan. It is similarly important to not forget about your goal and drop out of leadership all together. As Sara Ness, founder of Authentic Revolution (one of the longest-running Authentic Relating organizations), once said: 

"Hold your intentions strongly and your plans lightly.”

Tinier interruptions of a facilitator’s schedule happen all the time: Exercises take longer or shorter than expected, participants get impatient or ask for breaks when you didn’t plan them in, want more or less theory input than you expected, and so on and so on. A rule I found immensely valuable for situations like these:

“Take at least as long to plan a workshop as the workshop itself takes. Then, when the first participants trickle in, forget about the plan and improvise with what you find in the room.”

Here are some strategies that can help you adjust your plans more graciously:

  • Usually, things take longer than we expect. Think upfront about which elements of your workshop you can easily trim. Important: Don't try to save time on breaks or the ending. People can only focus for a certain amount of time before the group work turns into a pointless grind; more on why endings are important in section 4. Bonus points for trimming generously and discreetly without mentioning it to the group. If you feel rushed, they will, too.
  • Make some time beforehand to think about how a group might react differently than expected in different phases of your workshop, and how you can deal with that in accordance with your overall goal. For example, in theory-heavy workshops, it is fairly easy to see by participants’ body language when a presentation you give takes too long and they lose focus/engagement. When that happens, I might for example stop at the earliest reasonable point and switch to breakout group discussions of the topic at hand: “All right, we’ve been sitting in a circle for too long. Let’s get up and move a bit. Then, please find a partner and take 5 minutes to talk about what you just heard: Which bits make sense, which bits are surprising, what do you disagree with?”
  • When the group is really distractable and deviates from the topic a lot, it might make sense to interrupt and ask them collectively if this is the discussion they want to have. If yes, then let them continue. If no, continue with the initial topic and moderate more sternly to keep them on track. If the group is split, I would usually drop the tangent: People already voted with their feet on the official topic, by showing up. Accordingly, changing the topic without consensus from everyone would be unfair.
  • For getting quick temperature checks on how the group feels about something, I like to use thumb rounds or hand polls:
    • “Do you all agree to these rules for tonight? I’d like to see a thumbs-up from everyone if yes.”
    • “Are these text summaries by participants useful to you? Hands up -> ‘Yes!’ Hands extended horizontally -> ‘I don’t care either way’; Hands pointed towards the floor -> ‘No, let’s not do them.’ “

b. Come as you are.

…and by that, I mean: Be a real human being rather than role-playing what you think a perfect facilitator is supposed to be like.

There are two reasons for this: On the one hand, leading a group is way easier when you demonstrate the kinds of behaviors you want to see from participants - while the weight of authority has your back and makes everything you do feel like the expected default. On the other hand: None of us is good at everything. If you acknowledge that, you’ll know how to ask for support when you need it, and you’ll achieve superhuman feats when it is your time to shine and you know it. 

i. The leader sets the tone.

Do you remember how you learned that sexuality is something awkward and embarrassing one shouldn’t talk about, because when your parents or teachers had “the talk” with you, they acted all awkward and embarrassed?

In the same way, however you decide to show up as the group leader sets the tone for all interactions between group members. Your example can make the whole space warm and welcoming. It can set a playful, curious, somber, or any kind of other tone you might aim for. Or, it can shift group interactions towards being cold, judgmental, or even coercive.

For example, if you want participants to feel comfortable showing up as they are, you can lead with self-disclosure:

  • “I’m super excited because this is the first time I’m trying this format.”
  • “Whoopsie, now I’m feeling embarrassed - I didn’t plan to curse in this setting.”

If you want participants to be honest with themselves and others about their wants and boundaries, lead by example as well. Make sure that the group work you’re doing is satisfying for you, too. Dare to run the events you feel excited about, not (only) the ones your fantasy image of a good community builder would run. Otherwise, you burn out, and participants don’t feel comfortable showing up fully either. For example:

  • “I’m doing these applied rationality workshops because I want to hold myself accountable to actually practice these skills.”
  • “Animal welfare is a topic that hits particularly close to home for me, so I’m super excited that it is on our agenda today.”
  • “Aight I’m thirsty, how about we take a break and get some tea?” 

ii. Self-knowledge beats perfectionism.

Don’t try to be perfect; mind your comparative advantage instead. Even within the same line of work (like facilitation), different people can and should develop different styles. If all of us mostly focus on trying to get rid of our weaknesses, all of us are mediocre at everything. So let us play to our strengths instead and trust that others can do the jobs we are not made for. One of the things I find most exciting about facilitation: Not only can I rely on my co-facilitators’ support, I can also rely on the ingenuity of the whole group at once. I like to make wealthy use of that.

  • I think we should do more outreach to entrepreneurs, but I’m definitely not the right fit for that. Could you take ownership of this, while I keep track of our volunteers and take over the student group? 
  • “I’m sensing a bunch of tension in the room and it doesn’t seem like we’re ready to take the next step. I’m not sure though what is going on. Who has a suggestion?”

c. Mix up social forms.

I did not particularly enjoy studying philosophy: Most of it was discussing texts, and most of these discussions happened in crowds of 15-30 people, at max quarter of whom had actually done the reading.

You can’t have a discussion with 15-30 people: Anna asks a question. Arthur responds to a contribution two before Anna’s. Ahmad didn’t listen and wants to share a completely different insight he had while reading the text. Then, Anton feels left out of the fun and throws in an entirely random polemic statement with only loose connection to the text he didn’t read. In the meantime, Anabel types into her phone to schedule tonight’s party, and Ayse is frozen in place because she knows the answer to Anna’s question, but doesn’t dare speak up under these circumstances.

Here’s how to fix this: Minimize the time participants spend in the whole group as much as possible. The whole group is for check-ins, check-outs, and brief reflection rounds after specific tasks or breakout group discussions. Nothing more.

In the time between these rounds, work with breakout groups: Split people up into smaller groups for a preset amount of time and give them a discussion prompt, task, or a chapter to discuss. A good group size for intellectual topics is 3-4 people, and 2-3 for emotional ones. After the time is up, you call everybody back into the big group and ask for brief (!) summaries of the breakout groups’ key takeaways. Rinse, and repeat in new groups with a new topic, until it is time for the check-out.

Firstly, small groups ensure that introverts feel comfortable speaking up at all. They are enjoyable for extraverts, too: This way, we can get even more airtime than we’d have while being the discussion leaders in the big group.

Secondly, as a facilitator, my object-level expertise is way less relevant than getting the participants deeply engaged with each other and the material at hand. I’m not enough of a genius to be able to think for them. And even if I were: People tend to learn way more deeply when they debate a topic themselves rather than parrot what some authority tells them about it.

Thirdly, each single participant has a different interest in the topic at hand, brings different background knowledge, and different priorities. Thus, everyone will take something else away from my workshop anyway, and they themselves know best where their interests and confusions lay. The best I can do as a facilitator is not to spoon-feed them content, but to allow them to build their own relationships to the topic and to each other.

3. What to do when some don’t talk and some don’t stop.

Many of the unadjusted behaviors we display in group situations are dysfunctional strategies for meeting our needs for belonging, safety, and meaning. If I get the group beginning right, use my own example to set a tone that is warm, humorous, and encouraging of vulnerability, as well as avoid long large-group discussions, I help participants satisfy these needs and remove a lot of pressure from them. In consequence, I encounter dysfunctional behavior way less often than other facilitators who are not mindful of these factors. However, sometimes that is still not enough. You’ll still have situations where some group members freeze and others don’t stop talking. So, here are some things that may help.

A general note upfront: Personally, I’m not so concerned about everyone having the same share of the conversation. People desire to different extents to speak up and be heard. Being silent and feeling awkward are two different things, just as speaking up and feeling comfortable/confident don’t always go hand in hand. The goal should not be for everyone to speak the exact same amount, but for everyone to get exactly the share of the conversation they are comfortable with. Some people have a buzzing mind and don’t know how to get themselves into the conversation. Others are just happy to listen and don’t have a strong need to express themselves. Some people speak a lot because they have a lot to share and notice that people love listening to them; others speak a lot because they can’t keep their mouths shut when they are nervous.

Any of these ways of being is okay, and that’s what you should want to signal as a facilitator. You don’t do people a favor if you try to fix or educate them. Especially if their behavior is rooted in deeper anxieties and insecurities: Then, more pressure, by default, will push them into their behavior further rather than reduce it.

People are different, and I want my groups to be a space where participants can explore these differences freely and decide with as little pressure as possible whether or not they want to dare new behaviors. No matter whether that is saying more than usual, less than usual, or something completely different.

So, here are my strategies for getting people to say exactly as much as they want to, beyond the general advice given above:

  • Norm-setting at the start: To save time, I only do this in groups where I expect overtalking, or already experienced it during earlier sessions. There are two layers to this. You can use any or both:
    • Encouraging self-regulation, by nudging people to reflect on their turn-taking behavior. Here is an example that may or may not work in your context: "All of us have different habits of how much we speak in groups. People are different and *want* to contribute to different extents, and that’s fine. However, I’d still like to make this a space where you can try new behaviors. If you tend to be quick to speak, I invite you to hold back a bit to allow others to speak as well, and if you tend to be quiet, to lean into seeing what it's like if you speak up more." 
    • Setting the expectation upfront that you will interrupt participants to keep the discussion on track and even out the shares people have in the conversation. Emphasize that it is not personal, but that there is a certain vibe you are aiming for and want to enable through strict moderation. Then, actually interrupt the overtalkers. One way to interrupt overtalkers that I love goes somewhat like this: “[Name], I don’t want to interrupt your flow. But if I do, I fear it interrupts the flow of the group. Could you finish that sentence and nominate the next person for the check-in?”
  • Sharings: Popcorn-style or question round robin? I decide consciously whether I want to do reflection rounds popcorn-style (i.e. everyone speaks when they want to, some people more than once and some never), or as a question round robin (i.e. everyone speaks up exactly once by default, with the freedom to wait until the end of the round or not share if they really don’t want to.) The benefit of question round robins is that they balance out how much of a share of the conversation people get and that I get to gauge how everyone in the group is doing. The benefit of popcorn-style sharings is that they are easier to cut short (“Still three sharings!”), and that they encourage self-leadership by getting people to decide for themselves when, how much, and what they want to share. Personally, my default is that I want everyone to speak during check-in and check-out, and do everything in-between popcorn-style without pressure to share.

And of course, in general: If someone seems unwell beyond usual levels of introversion and doesn’t speak up to change something even after you silently observed the situation for a while, it might make sense to kindly and un-intrusively check in with them in a break - offering a conversation, not expecting it.

In general: A mental model that helps me immensely to understand the dynamics between more expressive and receptive people are Sara Ness’ Relating Languages.

4. Be aware of how you wrap up.

According to the peak/end-rule, the most memorable parts of an event are the peak, and the end. Everything else fades into the background. Thus: If you want people to feel inspired to come back and reach out to each other afterward, try to end on a high note.

Additionally, the ending of an event is a wonderful moment to invite participants to look back, go meta, and reflect on their highlights, lowlights, and learnings, so that the most relevant parts of the experience get consolidated in their memories even more.

You won’t want to waste this opportunity by leaving everything up to chance. So here are three ways to use the ending of an event consciously.

a. A check-out round.

After a workshop, gather everyone in a circle, let them recapitulate what they experienced, and ask them to summarize in 1-3 sentences what is most relevant. Depending on the topic at hand and what you think the group needs most, you can make this more feelings-related by asking for highlights and lowlights, cognitive by asking for key takeaways, or action-related by asking participants to reflect on next steps they want to take within 1,2, 4 weeks after the workshop.

If the check-out I choose is action-related, I like to give people a minute or ten to reflect on their next steps in silence before I open the sharing round. If I feel particularly fancy and have the time, I go for pair rather than solitary reflection and ask these pairs to check in on each other’s progress later.

Some of the prompts I like to use, depending on crowd and context:

  • “Now, look back at our time together. From the moment you arrived here, over x, y, and z [insert stations of the group work], all the way to this moment. When you take all of that together - what is most important?”
  • “What were your highlights, lowlights, what do you take with you from this evening?”
  • “So, after all the work we did - how are you right now?”
  • “Taking all this new information into account - what is one tiny step you can take within the next week to bring more clarity to your career plans?”
  • “In just three words: How are you feeling right now?”

In groups too large for check-out rounds, I use similar prompts as above, but skip the whole group and only have participants reflect on their own, in pairs, or in small groups. If it is a large online event, you can ask participants to pop their responses into the chat instead.

Some bonus material for online events: Linda Linsefors designed a text-based closing session you can copy and adapt for your purposes. 

b. A co-created ending ritual.

This is something I got to know during Authentic Revolution’s Authentic Leadership Trainings. I would absolutely not use it in formal settings and with less expressive crowds, but had breathtaking successes during higher-trust events like EA unconferences, Authentic Relating games nights, or applied rationality workshops. I prompt it somewhat like this:

“To wrap up, I’d like to invite all of us to stand up and co-create an ending ritual. Humans evolved to love rituals, and we have way too little of this in our modern everyday lives. So let’s see whether we can make something up from scratch together. The ritual has several steps, and anyone can contribute the next one for all of us to imitate: A movement, a sound, or both. Who wants to go first? ...

Who wants to contribute the second/third/last step? ...

Now, let’s tie all of it together.”

5. Fork up freely.

All of these strategies are way less commonly used than I think they should be. Because of that, it is hard to find role models who execute them well, especially in whichever specific context you’d need role models the most.

However, if you pay close attention, you can not only learn from other facilitators’ successes, but also from their mishaps.

  • How do I feel in this group? Comfortable, cozy? Evaluated? Left out? Does it seem like laughing is forbidden? 
  • When was the first time that feeling popped up, and what did the facilitator or other participants do right before that?
  • Did the feeling dissolve later on? If yes, when and why?

Especially when an event feels exceptionally right or wrong, it might be worthwhile to stop and think about these questions, whether during or after.

Like with every skill, you’ll start out being a bit clumsy while trying all this for the first time. Fluency needs practice. As Scott Alexander puts it in his Nonfiction Writing Advice:

“There’s a pattern across almost all skills, where people start off doing things half-baked but sometimes with a bit of native talent. The experts teach them The Right Way To Do Things, and they switch to doing it in a stilted formulaic way that makes everybody else cringe. Eventually they become better and better. Finally, they do things that completely contradict the rules they were taught, and it works great. I think it was in the context of poetry that somebody said ‘Learn the rules first, then you can break them as much as you want.’”

It is easy to create all kinds of awkward situations as a facilitator. I embarrassed myself by using the wrong exercises or wordings for the audience at hand. I lost crowds because I was too daring or too conservative in applying these tools. And please, please never ask me about all the jokes I told throughout my life that didn’t land well.

If you want to grow as a facilitator, you have to try new things, and if you try new things, you will sometimes fail. When that happens, congratulate yourself for having had the courage to try, and for having learned a valuable lesson. As Barbara Oakley put it in “A Mind for Numbers”:

“Lady Luck favors the one who tries.”

And when one day you are so embarrassed about a facilitation mishap that you have trouble sleeping at night - send me a message, and I’ll see whether I can trump you with an even more cringey story from my own journey.

In order to digest all these tiny victories and failures better, you might want to have a learning diary. After each event you lead, take just one or two minutes to write down what went well, and what you’d do differently next time. This way, you will make a fool of yourself less and less often, and you will see the magic happen more and more consistently. Over time, you will recursively self-improve into the stratosphere like a paperclip maximizer.

6. What next?

a. The obligatory hedging.

None of this is comprehensive. When I lead groups, I tie these techniques together through intuition and experience. Many of the things I do while facilitating are hard to convey in writing, and probably even more of them unconscious. I’ve done my best to distill my style of facilitation down to the core, but I’m a way more experienced facilitator than facilitation teacher. I might miss out on crucially important practical detail without which these tools break. Think of how people usually just stare at you helplessly when you ask them about some grammatical detail of their native language.

If you try things from this list, I'd appreciate hearing back if they work, and especially if they don't. That way, I can become a better facilitation teacher and include them in a possible follow-up post.

b. Would you like to attend a facilitation training? Express your interest. 

I’m considering running weekend-long facilitation trainings for EA community builders in 2023 for practicing all the skills an article like this can’t teach. Whether this will actually happen depends on how my career develops this year, whether enough people are interested, and whether I can get it funded or people are willing to pay for it. Express your interest here and I might get back to you in a couple of weeks or months.

c. Further reading.

  • George Lakey: Facilitating Group Learning. The best, most comprehensive facilitation handbook I know of in English, based on similar values as my approach.
  • Priya Parker: The Art of Gathering. A wonderful book on experience design a bunch of EA community builders recommended to me. It helps turn mediocre events of all kinds into mind blowing ones.
  • Irene Klein: Gruppen leiten ohne Angst. For the German-speaking audience, this is the most practical book on Theme-Centered Interaction I know of


Many thanks for helping to make this post what it is go to Heather McClellan, Linda Linsefors, Nina Antonyuk, Anna Swisher, Martin Milbradt, Martin Rognlien, Sam Brown, Aron Mill.

Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

Thank you for writing this really useful and entertaining post, Severin. It has definitely motivated me to facilitate some more gatherings!

Very valuable - thank you Severin!

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