In the first of a short series of blogs on core facilitation skills we thought we would focus on four essential skills. We will address each separately and cover other topics such as process design, tools, techniques and managing groups and individuals in subsequent blogs, but for now let’s focus on the fundamentals.

  • Questioning; the skill of designing and asking great questions
  • Listening; actively and attentively listening to what’s being said, not said and how
  • Paraphrasing and Summarising; playing back what you have heard
  • Presentation; with a small ‘p’, capturing and documenting group outputs


Good questions test assumptions, invite participation from the group and individuals, gather information and help probe for those hidden points.

Asking great questions helps sets the tone. paves the way, causes participants to think and elicits better responses. It is important to spend quality time designing great questions, a good starting framework is the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) Structured Conversations method. This is a ‘total’ process, using the senses, memories and feelings, left and right brain, intuition and reason.

We will discuss the method in more detail in a later blog.


Having designed and asked really great questions it is essential you listen to what might be coming back (or not?!) at you by way of a response! This means not only listening to who is actually speaking at the time but being aware of what others might be saying, trying to say or even NOT saying.

This is more commonly known as ‘active’ or attentive listening, where you as the Facilitator actively and attentively listen to the WHOLE group; listening to words and language, observing body language, movement, gesture and expression and using good eye contact.

Good listening is not just a one-to-one but a one-to-many skill!

Paraphrasing & Summarising.

Having asked great questions, attentively listened to responses from the whole group, you might at times need to intervene to ‘play back’ what you have heard, to do this you can either summarise or paraphrase, or even ask someone from the group to do this, but what is the difference, and why do it?

In summarising you are taking a response, identifying the key points and playing them back to the individual or group using their words, giving a brief account and removing needless detail.

In paraphrasing you are expressing the meaning of what’s being said but in your own words or other words than theirs.

Both of these interventions can be used to aid, ensure and clarify understanding and allow for the capture of outputs. This is helping you, individuals and the whole group. You might also ask someone else in the group to outline what they heard and play it back to the group. We will revisit different intervention types in subsequent blogs.


So, you’ve asked great questions, listened attentively, summarised or paraphrased to check understanding and remove needless detail and now you need to capture or document the ‘outputs’. This can of course be done in a number of different ways; post-it’s, visual graphic templates, pre-prepared posters etc. but here we will focus on the good old flip chart with a few simple but effective hints and tips.

  • Make sure you have good markers and plenty of flip chart paper
  • Put borders round the edges of your flip charts to make them stand out from each other when you put them up on the wall(s)
  • Use dark colours for writing, light colours for high-lighting and impact
  • Write in lower case, not joined up, it’s easier to read at speed and distance
  • Don’t put too much on a flip chart page, not too busy!
  • Leave good space(s) so you can add more if you need to
  • Mix it up a little using a combination of written word, images and graphics
  • Keep it simple and don’t over-engineer things
  • For more difficult graphics or visuals use clip art or the internet!
  • Number your flips as you go and
  • Hang your flips on the wall in order, they are both yours and the groups ‘memory’

In subsequent blogs we will cover other core facilitation skills, tools and techniques.


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