In 2001, I was invited to facilitate a top executive team through a series of seven full-day meetings over seven months through a process of redefining the operating model for the 1300 United Ways across America.  Along with the heads of some of the largest United Ways in the country, this team also included the CEO of Radio Shack, the CEO of Williams Company, the former CEO of Shell Oil, and executives from Ford, Microsoft, UPS, etc.  I certainly wanted to be at my best with this group.

As I looked into my facilitator’s tool box at the time, I realized that by the end of the third meeting, the executives would already have seen every engagement strategy I had!  It was then I had the bright idea to lead a session on engagement strategies at the upcoming International Association of Facilitators conference.  In that session, I would share a few engagement strategies, but spend the bulk of the time having participants share theirs!  Nice way to learn, huh?

As a result of the session, more than 50 engagement strategies were documented.  Of these, we selected the following common, effective engagement strategies to teach in our Advanced Facilitation course.  I have asterisked (*) my four favorites.

Common Engagement Strategies

Basic Brainstorming To generate a large number of ideas
Brainstorming with Post-Its To generate a large number of ideas
Brief Encounters* For participants to get feedback from others on their ideas
Dot Voting To narrow a list or select items from a list
Dump and Clump* Gather information and then categorize that information.
Dyads/Triads To generate ideas or answers in groups
Elevator Speech Participant summary of content
Forced Analogies To use once a group has brainstormed ideas, and the group is running out of ideas
Future Letter To assure transfer of training
Group Questioning Surfaces all the questions participants have after a presentation
Introductions To open the class
Journaling To encourage individual involvement and participation.
Last Person Standing* Identify the most unique information or ideas in a short and energy-filled period of time.
More Of or Less Of Helps the participants evaluate an approach or a change
Rotating Flipcharts* Gather information with the ability to get input and/or review of content by other teams/individuals.
Start/Stop/Continue Provide an opportunity for reflection and commitment to action by group and/or individual.
Talking Stick Promote discussion and listening
Think-Pair-Share Gather information in groups of two to three and share in a crisp, concise manner.
WhipTo determine whether individual participants are in favor of an idea or to allow participants to express their feelings about something.

My Favorite Engagement Strategies

NameBrief Encounters
TypeGenerating Ideas


For participants to get feedback from others on their ideas
General DescriptionBrief Encounters is a fast-paced activity that pairs participants for brief periods of time.  In the time allotted (usually 10 minutes), participants pose a prepared question to others in the class and record their answers.
Benefit· Gets participants up and moving

 · Allows participants to get considerable input into an idea

· Gives participants an opportunity to hear about and make recommendations on the issues of others


Sample Words (Purpose, example if necessary, general directions, specific instructions, questions, starting question)·  The facilitator instructs the participants to develop a personal question (e.g., “How do I give constructive feedback without sounding judgmental.”)

  · In 10 minutes, the participants engage in as many one-on-one conversations as possible in which each asks and receives answers.  Responding to the answers is specifically discouraged.

NameDump and Clump
TypeGenerating Ideas
PurposeGather information and then categorize that information.
General DescriptionEach individual or team prepares their items for a list (e.g., what are all of the steps in the hiring process; what are my objectives for this session) or a brainstorming activity (e.g., where we might plan our company outing). These items are collected (dumped) and then organized in categories (clumped).
Benefit An approach to get many people involved, develop and organize a large amount of input in a timely and organized manner.
Sample Words (purpose, example if necessary, general directions, specific instructions, questions, starting question)


· You just heard about what our objectives of this session are; what is even more important are those key issues that you would like to cover so that we ensure this session will be a productive use of your time.

  · So, while we are completing this Strategic Plan, I would like to get your input about those key issues that you would like to ensure we cover as a part of this Strategic Plan so that you will know it has addressed the areas you see as important to you.

· Any questions?

· OK, imagine it is Wednesday afternoon and we have just completed our session. You are on your way to your car to start on your way back home. One of your colleagues approaches you and says, “Well, what did you think about the Strategic Planning session?” You reflect and tell them, “Well I really enjoyed this new approach, It was engaging and the time really went by fast; but, you know there were a few items I really had hoped we would address that we really never got to……”

· What are those items that you had hoped we would address?

NameLast Person Standing
TypeGather information; generating unique items for a list or ideas.
PurposeIdentify the most unique information or ideas in a short and energy-filled period of time.
General DescriptionTeams (or individuals) are asked to gather as much input as they can. Then the Team Leader has a competition with other Team Leaders to determine which team has the most number of unique ideas. (All other participants act as the judges to help identify the duplicates.)
BenefitCompetitive and energetic approach to infuse energy into the session. Especially good during lull times.
Sample Words (purpose, example if necessary, general directions, specific instructions, questions, starting question)· The purpose of this exercise is for us to identify as many different characteristics of (an energetic speaker) as we can.

 · For example, if we were looking for a list of all of the automobile models that we could think of, we would be looking for a list that would include items like Taurus, Impala, Escort, Escalade, Jetta, 626, etc. But we are not……

· What we are doing is identifying the characteristics of an energetic speaker. So, think about the last time you were at a meeting or presentation and a speaker began his presentation. Right away he simply “got you!” I mean he captured you attention, you were almost on the edge of your chair because of his approach.

· Let’s write each of those characteristics, one per post-it note that just made the speaker make you just listen to what he/she was saying….

Other TipsThe team leaders come to the front of the room. Team Leader #1 reads and posts one answer and goes to the end of the line; then Team Leader #2 reads and posts and goes to the end, etc. While someone says a duplicate, the audience raises crossed arms and saying “oonk.” This helps to keep the entire group engaged. When a duplicate is identified, the facilitator collects that post-it and the Team Leader goes to the back of the line. The second duplicate eliminates that team. By using color post-its by team, it is clear when the 2nd duplicate is identified.

NameRotating Flip Charts
TypeBreakout Groups
PurposeGather information with the ability to get input and/or review of content by other teams/individuals.
General Description Groups prepare a flip chart. After initial information is completed, teams rotate in succession to each of the other flip charts to provide their feedback and recommendations on other team’s information.
BenefitSharing information in a crisp and concise manner. Allows many participants/teams to provide and review/revise information.
Sample Words (purpose, example if necessary, general directions, specific instructions, questions, starting question)



· Next, we are going to determine how we will measure our progress against these goals (e.g., dollars of revenue, % increase of revenue, market share, etc.)

  · Example…

· If we were going to decide what yardstick we would use to measure our progress on a car trip from Boston to Miami, we might suggest to measure that progress by miles traveled or hours in the car; either would be yardsticks on which to measure or track our progress.

· But we are not planning a trip. We have just identified the (“x”) goal areas that we have agreed to consider our broad areas on which to focus for our planning horizon. What we are going to do is ask Team #1 to identify their recommended yardsticks for (goal area #1; e.g.,. Products); Team #2 will be identifying yardsticks for goal area #2; e.g., employees); Team # 3……..

· Any questions?

· OK, if each team will move to their flip chart with their marker and post-its, I would like you to think about the goal area you have been assigned. Think about the different approaches you might be able to use to track progress against this goal….the things you would look at and say, “Yes, we are on the right track…”or that you would be able to comment on as follows, “Hey, you know this is telling us that we need to make adjustments to achieve this goal…..” What are the tools you would use to clearly measure where you are against this goal?

Other Tips· Allow between five to ten minutes for each team to build their initial lists (based on complexity, team size, etc.). At the end of the building of this initial list, ask each team to rotate to the next flip chart with their marker and post-its. Then have that team indicate that they agree with the prior teams list by placing a check by that item or, if they do not agree, place a post-it by that item and enhance/revise it so that they would agree.. (By using the team markers and post-its it is clear which team provide their feedback on each item.)

  · Rotate as many times as necessary. By providing one complete rotation, all teams/individuals will have had the opportunity to provide their input on all items.

· This is another fast-paced, comprehensive way to get all participants involved in a meaningful way.

To learn more about facilitation skills, consider our course, The Effective Facilitator.  The four-day course provides a structured approach for leading teams and facilitating meetings and covers over 100 techniques for getting amazing results from groups.