A very crucial part in the preparation for your facilitation role is setting the guidelines or “ground rules.” Since the primary function of the facilitator is to ensure smoothness and to make the entire process easy, establishing the ground rules will help in governing the group and the interaction of each participant throughout the course of the activity until the desired objectives are met. In some organizations, they call these rules as “agreements”, “operating principles”, or “practices.” In a classroom setting or in a training session, it is referred to as the “code of conduct.”
As to how these rules are generated, it depends on how the organization or the program organizers decide to come up with these principles. In most cases, the facilitator usually creates the list of ground rules to follow during the event, especially if time is an issue. Another alternative could be to engage the participants in generating the list. You might want to ask them on what they need to ensure a safe and comfortable environment especially when discussing controversial and complex issues. So, this kind of approach in setting your ground rules becomes more like an agreement between you and the group members.
Establishing Common Ground Rules
In establishing the ground rules, consider the many factors that are involved. Usually, these factors are centered on the participants. The kind of rules to be created may depend on the age range, region, social class, and educational level of the members. But to achieve a common ground, it is safe to set universal ground rules that will generally apply to all members. The following are some common examples of ground rules:
1. Be time conscious and always be on time.
2. Listen attentively and actively when someone else is talking.
3. Communicate only using polite speech and body language.
4. Participate fully in the discussion and in any activity.
5. Respect other people’s talk time, space, and property.
6. Be cooperative. Always be at your best and do your best in the session.
7. Disagree or comment openly and respectfully with any member of the team.
8. Speak from personal experience and stories.
In some cases, the facilitator may come up with personal ground rules to be adhered to by everyone such as no using of personal gadgets while the activity is going on or no eating during the course of the discussion. But then again, this depends on the type of event or workshop and the mood of the activity.
Delivering the Agenda The preparation of the agenda depends on the type of workshop or session and the way the organization wants it to be. In a regular company meeting, the facilitator works with the chairperson in making the agenda. In a training session, the trainer develops the training agenda with the supervisor. However it is worked on, the agenda is generally developed by the program organizers along with the facilitator.
In the agenda, the subject matter or the main topic and background of the discussion or the activity should be listed. The objectives of the program must also be highlighted. To easily achieve the desired goals, time allocation or time limit for each agenda item will be very helpful to guide both the facilitator and the participants. Remember to plan the agenda according to the expected number of attendees for the event and the given time to conduct the entire event.
Guiding and Controlling the Course of the Program
A facilitator takes control and guides how the event will proceed until the goals are achieved. With the established ground rules and agenda, it will be a lot easier to make the activity run smoothly from start to finish. These ground rules must be delivered at the start of the workshop before the meat of the discussion is initiated. All participants must agree to the set rules or may suggest something else that will benefit the group.
After laying out the rules, the agenda should be presented. A printed agenda to be distributed to each attendee is ideal but putting it in PowerPoint presentation is also very professional. Once these are laid out, the rest of the work should be easy for a facilitator to perform.