It is 9 AM and time to kick off that full-day facilitated session. Most of the people have arrived and you have already given the two-minute warning. You are ready to start with a hearty, “Good Morning!” Once you say those words, the session is off and running. Think about the other things you have to get done with the group between saying those two words and later saying, “We’ve just gone through the ‘Getting Started’ part of our agenda, now it is time to begin our first real agenda topic.”


While the items to cover can vary depending upon such factors as the type of session, the scheduled duration, the number of participants, etc., we find that there are nine key items in particular that we typically cover in sessions that are a day or longer.

1.    Inform participants about the session purpose and desired products.

  • When executives walk into a room, they often want to know two things right at the beginning, “Why am I here? When can I leave?”  With this step you cover both.

2.    Excite them by explaining what is in it for them.

  • Explain the benefits of the meeting and why this meeting should be important to them.

3.    Empower them by sharing the role they are being asked to play.

  • Describe the role they will play or the authority that has been given to them (e.g., make a decision, develop a recommendation, brainstorm ideas).

4.    Involve them by getting the key topics they believe need to be covered.

  • Get them involved immediately through an engagement question that furthers the meeting purpose such as the key topics they want to see covered in the session.

5.    Review the planned agenda and adjust as needed based on their key topics.

  • Linking their topics to the agenda gets their buy-in to the plan for the day and lets them know up front which of their items will likely not be covered.

6.    Explain the ground rules you recommend and invite them to add more and adopt.

  • Use ground rules to help the group be self-correcting.

7.    Describe the parking boards and the purpose of each.

  • Issues List – Items that are not relevant to the current agenda item that will be addressed later in the session or outside the session
  • Decisions List – Decisions that are made by the participants during the session
  • Actions List – Actions to be performed some­time after the completion of the session

8.    Define consensus and gain agreement on how decisions will be made.

  • While the classic definition of consensus is, “I can live with it and support it,” in our work we often use the five-finger consensus model as described in an earlier blog.

9.    Facilitate an introduction process, if appropriate, for people to learn who is in the room.

  • Whether you have people introduce themselves, have people be introduced by a partner, or use some other introduction process, consider giving a time limit on introductions. Without some type of time limit, you may find that the first few people take about 30 seconds each, but by the time you get to the last person the timing has ballooned to nearly 5 minutes!

Of course you may not cover all nine of these in every facilitated session; and you may find that you change the order off the items. But we recommend you consider each of them as you do your session preparation.

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.