How to develop your facilitation skills

This brief how-to assumes you’re already familiar with the value of facilitation, but just in case you need a refresher, here are two useful primers on that: One from the International Association of Facilitators and a longer-form one from Martin Gilbraith (who you’ll meet again further down).

A question from the Align community


Absolutely Rich – here are some quick ideas:

Absolute beginner

In person

Learning is facilitation is best done live. Why not start out by coming to an IAF Meetup (even if you’re not a member). Here’s a link to the London group / South East group, but there are many more around the world.

On the page

Next you’ll want to do some reading. Here’s are the core books I draw on regularly – take a pick. That said, I’d start with The Art of Focused Conversation. Whilst I mainly use the Technology of Participation (and the Small Groups Method built on that that Martin and I worked on introducing at the RSA back years ago), I am always interested in other approaches.

For example, here’s a swift intro five-slide to Appreciative Inquiry:

At some point you’ll want to do some formal training. Martin runs regular courses in London and Brussels. You can find his schedule here (which also includes a number of free webinars).

Also, as you’ll be helping groups of people deal with sometimes difficult challenges, get your head around the ethics. We live in a time when people sometimes want to make it contentious. That said, don’t be paranoid.

Also, here’s a list of kit in case that’s useful.

Experienced practitioner

The way to continuously improve is through deliberate practice. We’ll talk more about that in detail another time, but in a nutshell it is about:

  1. Being clear about what you want to do – and improve
  2. Trying it out in practice
  3. Getting feedback, including from third parties – including other experienced facilitators
  4. Reflecting and adjusting … and then rinse and repeat

Also, if you’re already a an experienced practitioner you’ll want to work toward becoming an IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator. Here’s more about that from the good people at IAF:

Advanced / expert

Get out and share! Consider pitching to run a session at an IAF conference. Or write an article for the Global Flipchart and other facilitation-focuses publications. Or both!

Good luck – and do share resources you think should be included above as you progress.