Five simple ideas to improve your facilitation skills

1 Feb 2022

Facilitation is a skill most of us use at one point or another. Whether you’re in a formal meeting or a casual conversation, being able to guide the conversation is useful. You don’t need to become a fully certified facilitator to make an impact. Try these five simple ideas to improve your facilitation skills.

  1. Summarise often.
  2. Regularly remind the group what the original goal was. Bring the conversation back to that goal anytime it goes off on a tangent.
  3. Remain neutral.
  4. Frame the start of the conversation clearly.
  5. Use a parking board.

Read on to find out how to learn these simple ideas to improve your facilitation skills. If you do, you are more likely to get the Benefits of a well-facilitated discussion.

1. Summarise often

The longer a discussion goes on the harder it is to keep track of the key points. Ideas merge together and the conversation goes off onto tangents. Pausing frequently to summarise key points keeps the group aligned.

As a facilitator you should summarise the discussion after each important moment. Important moments can be decisions, agreements, sharing multiple ideas, and so on. By summarising after each important point, the group will all be on the same page.

An example of doing this is: ‘I heard three different ideas just now. Idea one is A, idea two is B, and idea three C. It sounds like you agreed idea one is the best way forward. Is that right?’.

Summarizing the longer discussion focuses the group on the outcome and next steps.

2. Regularly remind the group what the original goal was

Long discussions have many twists and turns. Each new idea, concern, or suggestion can move the conversation away from the original goal.

As the facilitator you should know the goal of the discussion. Keep that goal clear in your mind. You could even write it on a note in front of you to help keep it clear. Then, as the discussion develops, keep track of the group’s progress towards the goal. If the conversation seems to be moving towards less relevant topics you can bring it back to the original goal.

An example of how to do this is say something like: ‘We are spending time talking about X, does this help us achieve the goal for this discussion? As a reminder, the original goal was A.’

Reminding the group of the goal and asking a question is an effective way to help the group get themselves back on track.

3. Remain neutral

Facilitation is meant to be done by someone neutral. In this case, being neutral means not actively trying to get a specific outcome. The facilitator’s aim is to help the group achieve their goal. It is not to implement the facilitator’s own agenda on the discussion.

This is why most facilitators are brought in from outside the team. For particularly large or contentious topics, facilitators come in from outside the company. This ensures they are totally neutral and don’t try to force a particular outcome.

In reality, we often find ourselves facilitating discussions where we do care about the outcome. We want to contribute more than facilitate the conversation. This is often unavoidable because we can’t always have an outside person join our meetings.

What should you do in this situation? Well, if you’re really invested in the outcome, ask another person to help guide the discussion.

4. Frame the start of the conversation

Without a clear goal a discussion is in efficient. This is fine in a social setting but not good at work. Ineffective discussions at work waste time and are frustrating. The most efficient discussions start with a clear introduction. This includes the problem to solve and the desired outcome from the conversation. Framing the discussion ensures everyone is on the same page and focused on the same outcome.

The simplest way to do this is to use the framing method. You can read more about that here.

5. Use a parking board

Great conversations generate lots of ideas. Each idea can help achieve the goal of the discussion, and it can also derail the whole process. As a facilitator, part of your role is to notice when great ideas are becoming distractions. Then help the group get back onto the main topic.

One simple way to do this is to use a parking board. A parking board can be a literal board, or a simple list. Every time an idea, suggestion, or topic comes up that doesn’t relate to the purpose of the discussion it is added to the parking board. The idea is ‘parked’ for a future discussion. This helps capture ideas so they aren’t wasted. It also ensures people see their ideas are not being ignored or overlooked by the group.

Parking ideas helps prevent tangents and that leads to more effective discussions.


Facilitation is a skill. There are people whose entire job is to facilitate discussions, meetings, and events. Those people train and practice for years to become master facilitators. But facilitation isn’t just limited to those few people. Facilitation skills are something we all use everyday to help guide group conversations.

You don’t need to go on an expensive course to take advantage of these skills. You can make use of a few simple ideas to improve your facilitation skills. Ideas like keeping a parking board to capture ideas to reduce tangents. Recognising the importance of staying neutral. Starting with a clear direction and then summarising often to keep the group focused on the outcome.

With a little practice you can apply these methods. Do this and you will see great results in your own discussions at work.