One of the most challenging aspects of facilitation is for the facilitator to stay neutral, because often, they have some insights into the subject. However, as the facilitator has no stake in the outcome, he/she should focus on the process only and refrain from contributing to the content. The facilitator provides a structure and creates a climate for open dialogue, asking questions to help the team progress. What a facilitator should never do is to impose his/her opinions and exert influence over the meeting’s outcome.
Active listening is one of the most important practices in facilitation. It allows the facilitator to capture important information, identify themes and make connections and/or ask reflective questions. Active listening requires the facilitator to display attentive body language towards the participants and paraphrase to show understanding. When the facilitator expresses a willingness to listening, participants will feel more inclusive and are more likely to contribute as they know that their views will be respected.
The facilitator should always be ready to intervene and adjust the facilitation process in order to sustain a participatory environment and keep everyone engaged. Participants get disengage for many reasons, such as the conversation going off track, general fatigue, trust and connection not established with facilitator, presence of domineering personalities or just the fact that the tools are not working. Any facilitated session is only as good as the level of engagement from the participants.
Summarizing is more than just wrapping up. Facilitator summarizes at various junctures of the process to put connect different ideas together or revive a discussion when it seems like the participants are facing a road block. When a facilitator is summarizing, he is also helping the group arrive at consensus.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of practices, but it is a good starting point for facilitator to start with.