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Updated: May 1st

Community Small Group Facilitation Playbook


Thank you for showing initiative and wanting to lead a group discussion with the TaskHuman community!

We know leading and facilitating a discussion can feel intimidating, as there are typically many moving parts and things to consider. So, we’ve put together a guide with the hopes of helping you navigate the logistics and get well-versed in facilitation best practices to ensure your discussion ends up filled with rich and meaningful dialogue!


1. Things to think about before the discussion 


Heading into your discussions with a positive, unbiased, and conscious mindset will help generate active participation. As a facilitator, you’re in a unique position to create a structure that enables the group to share the responsibility of learning.

1. a) Understand your role as a facilitator

  • As a facilitator, your role is to guide the discussion to progress by creating a space that prompts meaningful conversation, offers new perspectives, and delivers an effective outcome for the entire group. 
  • As a facilitator you are in an active, but neutral position. Your role is to assist and lead the group to progress towards the objectives set in place.
  • Guide the group’s energy to stay focused on the target objective(s). 
  • Provide structure and act as a referee to the group to acknowledge and build upon individual contributions.
  • Suggest an alternative method when needed (provide different ways to move forward with the discussion) and adapt to the needs of the group.
  • Create an environment where attendees/learners are encouraged to (and feel comfortable to) participate.
  • Seek to find a balance and harmony of discussion where everyone has opportunities to speak or engage. Create space for perspectives to be heard regardless of disagreement. 

1. b) Learn about TaskHuman’s community guidelines 

  • The link is


1.c) Strategize how you would like the meeting to flow 

Taking into account the relationship and composition of the group, some approaches to consider are:

  • Direct Approach 
    • This approach may be suitable for a newly formed group.
    • Offer constructive direction periodically when you see fit during the meeting.
    • Implementing a “trainer mindset” for this approach can help you steer and offer guidance for the group for more structure.   
  • Cooperate Approach
    • This approach may be suitable for a group that has been working together but hasn’t had the opportunity to create a community together.
    • Cooperate with the group to decide upon a method that works for the group during the session.  
    • Position yourself more as a meditator where the group will decide on how the discussion will operate to create deeper relationships with one another.
  • Suggestive Approach
    • This approach may be suitable for a group that is self directing and regularly generating dialogue.
    • Leverage and allow the group to decide upon how to operate. Suggest input when you see the group is lacking direction. 
    • Offer a space for the discussion to flow freely for the group with minimal guidance and intervene when needed.  


1.d) Be ready to adapt the discussion, holding the awareness of: 

  • Content (The What): Check in with yourself and your self-awareness around what biases you hold, what conflicting opinions may come up, and how you can best manage your thoughts and emotions.
  • Method (The How): Consider the approach and technique(s) you’ll apply during the discussion. Try to be adaptable with your approach and technique, allowing for alternate paths to develop based on the group’s needs within the given time frame and with consideration of the overall objective of discussion.    
  • Process (The Why): Keep stock of the energy and dynamic of the group during the discussion. Is the discussion offering a balanced environment for the group? Take note of non-verbal cues and body language so the space is collaborative and equal to all participants. 


1.e) Facilitation Techniques to Practice and Visualize

  • Brainstorming
    • Gather contributions from most (or all) participants and generate a range of ideas (also known as “Round Robin”)
    • Have the group refrain from having discussions or reactions when gathering the list 
    • List out all the ideas and clarify (for a deeper exercise you can combine similar ideas into groups) 
  • Discussion 
    • Allow the group to have an open exchange of comments to explore a topic
    • Start the dialogue and specify the end moment of discussion on the specific item or question prior to opening the floor
    • Document and summarize key moments during the discussion to be shared with the group at the time designated to end the discussion 
  • Stories
    • Have the group share using their own unique experiences to describe and convey learnings
    • Personal experiences can offer a different lens and illustrate an alternative picture in other’s mind while bringing the concept to life in a practical way
  • Consensus 
    • Coming to a group decision, even if not all participants agree
    • The final decision must be something that all can support 
    • Allow equal time for group members to contribute their perspective 
  • Voting
    • Coming to a group decision by selecting alternatives  
    • Can be carried out through show of hands, ranking, or rating
  • Parking Lots
    • When an item arises during discussion that’s not directly related to the issue or topic in place, the group can decide whether or not to assign the matter to the “parking lot” 
    • At the end of the discussion, the group can note and decide how and when the topic or question should to be addressed at a later time


2.The Day of Session

2.a) Greetings – Welcome learners to the space (in person or virtual)


2.b) Create a safe and trusted space 

You can set the tone of the group and discussion with a conversation kickstarter or icebreaker. This could be leading a moment of meditation / deep breathing together or using popcorn-style question prompts (can be out loud or via a web chat if meeting is virtual). You can choose something light and fun, something that connects to energy levels and mood, or an activity that allows people to get to know one another in a deeper way. Regardless, be mindful of time especially given your overall time limit for the discussion.

  • What’s one word to describe how you’re feeling today? (Or using the chat function, use an emoji to describe your mood)
  • What’s one good thing that’s happened in the last 24 hours?
  • What’s something you’re proud of from the last week?
  • What’s your energy level today (on a scale of 1-10)?
  • In one word, how would you describe your week? (Or using the chat function, use an emoji to describe your week)
  • What are you grateful for today?
  • Word association – choose a topic and create a list of words
  • “Extraordinary brick” – have participants list every use for a brick (the more obscure, the better!)
  • This or that – i.e. dog or cat? Beach or mountain? Spring or summer?
  • Show and tell (virtual) – share something that’s at your desk and explain the meaning behind it
  • Highs, lows, and Buffaloes (a high from your day, a low from your day, a “buffalo on the side of the road” – something weird you want to talk about!)
  • Fuzzy peaches and sour lemons 

Make sure everyone knows each other by introducing one another before proceeding (icebreakers/questions can instruct people to introduce themself before sharing their response) or have name tags if in person.


2.c) Share the agenda and establish group ground rules


  • Based on the size, location, and topic, consider what group agreements or ground rules may be helpful (i.e. implementing hand raising for a larger group, agreeing to confidentiality for a potentially sensitive topic, etc.)
  • You can also use this as an exercise to deepen the group’s relationship with one another. What community guidelines do they want to set while they’re together? Some examples can include:
    • Being mindful of others and ourselves. Agree to hold space for one another to be present and express freely while being conscious not only with our words but with our non verbal cues and body language of what we may be presenting and feeling.
    • Allowing the person to finish speaking before presenting your idea or thoughts.
    • Honor others’ differences in opinion and ideas. Disagreement is welcomed as long as it remains respectful and encourages a diversity of perspectives.  
    • Have devices silenced, distractions limited, etc.
    • Acknowledge that people may engage in different ways (i.e. if virtual, camera’s on/off)
    • Use hand raising (or the hand-raising function via video) [depends on the group size]
  • Share the agenda for the session with the group and clearly communicate why the discussion is taking place and what the goals are for the session. Have flexibility in your agenda so you can take an alternate path when timing and flow shifts.
  • Reaffirm that people can show up as they are, and encourage regular reflection and mindfulness. 


2.d) Curate an active participation/learning environment 


Having the entire group engaged and staying focused may sometimes be a struggle when facilitating a discussion. Humans engage and communicate in different ways. In addition to the facilitation techniques in 1.e):

  • Be clear that the goal is about creating a collaborative environment. 
  • Be mindful that the discussion revolves around the group. As much fun and exciting as the conversation may get, allow yourself to use the moment to recognize what the group’s needs are in order to steer the conversation forward instead of contributing your ideas. 
  • Be aware of the energy of the group to lift up or lower depending on what you observe the group needs at the appropriate moments.
  • Ask for clarification when needed and allow for the learners to elaborate on their opinions. Paraphrase what you’re hearing to spark more discovery.
    • “Does anyone have anything to add?”, “Can you say more about that”,  “Does anyone want to build on that concept?”
    • “What I’m hearing is ___. What do you think about…?”
    • “Can you elaborate on ___?”
  • Identify and ask questions that will encourage thought and participation – have question prompts prepared in advance that relate to the topic of discussion. Questions can be more general at first (“what were your initial reactions to learning about ___?”) and become more specific to connect the topic to your group’s specific community/context.
  • Support the group by offering or encouraging a different perspective and frame of mind.
    • “Would anyone like to add an additional perspective?”
    • “Which point(s) resonate with you?” 
  • If the group is larger in size, use breakout rooms virtually, or have folks discuss in small groups and then summarize their learnings after to save time and build interactivity.
  • Thank participants for sharing after they’ve spoken, acknowledging when they’ve contributed something personal or difficult.

2.e) Best practices during the discussion


  • Observe and read the room. As the meeting progresses, periodically check in with the group. Pay attention to the learners’ body language, posture, tone and expression on how people may be feeling. 
  • Actively listen to the learners to lean into what they are saying and contributing to the conversation.
    • Be aware that your body language is inviting to all and use eye contact and nodding to communicate that you are listening.
  • Consider when/where open-ended or leading questions are appropriate depending on the group’s needs. 
    • Open-ended questions or reflective questions can offer space for participants to share their unique views and allow the group’s perspectives to guide the discussion. 
      • “How did hearing that make you feel/think?”
      • “What perspectives were new or refreshing?”
      • “How might this affect our work?”
      • “What insights have you gained?”
    • Leading questions can be equally helpful to direct the group, find other solutions, and keep everyone on task.
      • “Does anyone else have anything to add about ___?”
      • “Are there similarities or differences we can find between ___ or ___?”
  • Offer your recap on what you have summarized and key moments you noticed from the dialogue. If time permits, prompt the group with a follow up question that will allow them further the conversation. 
  • Embrace the silence. Allow for a few moments of silence and reflection to occur as the learners gather their thoughts after questions are addressed or ideas are shared.
  • Be adaptable. Situations will arise and often things will not go as planned. Allow flexibility in your planning to adjust with the group. 
  • Keep the group on task. With preparation you’ll have a good idea of what you want to cover during the discussion. Allow the group to have valuable conversations but if you do see the group steering off or losing focus on the main question at hand, intervene to guide them back on track. 

2.f) How to manage conflict


  • Careful planning and setting clear expectations and guidelines at the beginning of the discussion (and starting on time) can help reduce non-productive or negative behavior.
  • Consider where the root issue of the conflict may be stemming from. In a lot of cases it may become more present when people have differing facts, values, assumptions, and constraints. Start by:
    • Clarifying facts
    • Aligning values
    • Aligning assumptions
    • Understanding constraints
  • Understand the emotions behind the conflict
    • Logistics: Could participants be missing another event at the same time? Was the location hard to find, or did they have tech issues? Were they not brought into the discussion with ample notice?
    • Emotional: Did they have preconceived ideas around the meeting outcome? Are they worried about the discussion generating work? Did they not have time to adequately prepare for the discussion? Could they feel personally attacked by a comment that was raised?
  • If a question is asked that no one has the answer to, let them know you’ll check in and follow up.
  • If someone is dominating the conversation, offer for people who haven’t spoken up to share their thoughts.
  • If the conversation or discussion is heating up quickly or derailing from the initial intent, it’s OK to jump in and steer the group out of the conflict.
  • If a situation is causing a disruption of focus or causing harm to participants, it’s OK to take a break and regroup on the guidelines initially set. You can also encourage participants to focus and reconnect through a guided breathing exercise, for example. You may even work with the group to collectively determine next steps.


3.After the discussion


3.a) Articulate a summary of the discussion or meeting


  • Determine the outcome based on your objectives and initial goals: Was there a balance of discussion? Was there space for perspectives to be heard? Did everyone who wanted to speak have a chance to? How was the topic received?
  • Start working on strategies for the next meeting based on learnings and best practices.




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