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Understanding the role of a facilitator. 

So you want to do a workshop? As a facilitator, there’s a lot of work, so let’s talk about what you are responsible for


  • Scheduling the meetings in Outlook
  • Getting an agenda and schedule set up
  • Collecting and sharing pre-workshop information and materials
  • Do a dry run to practice


  • Set a few basic rules
  • Set the tone and instructions
  • Knowing and managing personalities
  • Keeping time

You aren’t alone, though. If you are new to workshop hosting or this overwhelms you, talk to a peer or leader about getting some support. 

Assumptions to avoid

We all have assumptions, but it’s best to curb the ones that create friction in workshops. Don’t assume:

  • People know how to uses the tools – a good homework exercise is a tool 101
  • People know what a workshop is supposed to feel like – help them out by setting the stage and empathize with them if they trip up
  • People will understand the activities – you may have to do a little show and tell to help people dig in
  • People know their role – you may have to pull information out of people, give people the spotlight that allows them to shine
  • People will remember who our customers are, so remind them frequently. Our customers come first
  • Everyone knows everyone
  • You have to do everything. It’s ok to delegate prep work and workshop tasks to willing parties

Best Practices

Always start with why

Starting on the same page is critical to the success of the workshop from start to finish. If you are thinking about hosting/facilitating a workshop, you should take the first step to align on goals. You’ll use this to plan the activities for the workshop and parking lot distractions during the workshop. Goals will help you determine a few things:

  • Who should be in the workshop? Determine the audience/participants, think about the different perspectives and experiences you want at the table 
  • What research do we already have?
  • What are the outcomes?

Do the pre-work

But there’s homework? Yup, for any successful workshop, you have to do homework, and sometimes participants do too.

  • Set up an agenda and a minute-by-minute schedule
  • Send out supporting materials useful to align people’s understanding of the problem and outcome. Examples of materials:
    • Previous research
    • Personas
    • Business cases
    • Competitive reviews
  • Assign homework or pre-read materials if needed.

Kick-off with a bang

It’s best to start the day by setting expectations and the stage for the workshop. Do some icebreakers.

Manage your room

Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. This topic is challenging, and with everything else going on during a workshop.

  • Time and engagement are going to be something to keep at the top of your mind. 
  • Ever so often, read the room. How are people’s attitudes? Is everyone participating? Are people getting distracted?
  • Keep the momentum going.
  • Be flexible and adapt. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Be ready to manage spirals, energy (too much or too little), and activities. 

Follow up.

 It’s not over until we follow up but is it ever over?

  • Thank everyone for their time, focus, and willingness to be a part of the journey.
  • Communicate and assign any action items
  • Review the parking lot and set follow up discussions when needed
  • Make sure to follow up to reach out if we need to research after the workshop
  • Keep the energy going. Be the change
  • Re-energize yourself