Monday, August 23, 2010

Lead without being a control freak

Lead Without Being a Control Freak
Facilitation is a way of providing leadership without taking the reins. As a facilitator, your job is to get others to assume responsibility and to take the lead.
The facilitator’s job is to act as a referee.  That means you watch the action, more than participate in it.  You control which activities happen.  You keep your finger on the pulse and know when to move on or wrap things up.  Most important, you help members define and reach their goals.
When facilitating, use the following core practices:
  • Stay neutral on content: Your job is to focus on the process role and avoid the temptation of offering opinions about the topic under discussion.  Use questions and suggestions to offer ideas that spring to mind, but never impose opinions on the group.
  • Listen actively: Look people in the eye, use attentive body language and paraphrase what they are saying.  Always make eye contact with people while they speak, when paraphrasing what they have just said and when summarizing their key ideas. Also use eye contact to let people know they can speak next and to prompt the quiet ones in the room to participate.
  • Paraphrase to clarify: This involves repeating what people say to make sure they know they are being heard, to let others hear their points of view a second time and to clarify key ideas.
  • Ask questions: This is the most important tool you possess. Questions test assumptions, invite participation, gather information, and probe for hidden points.  It will allow you to bypass the symptoms and get at the root causes.
  • Use the flip chart: It helps to keep track of emerging ideas as well as final decisions. Notes should be brief and concise. They must reflect what the participants have said, not your interpretation of what was said.
  • Keep time: Appoint a timekeeper to call out time markers, or use a timer to help keep the group on track.
  • Play Ping-Pong: Picture yourself standing at the flip chart with a Ping Pong paddle in one hand. If someone asks a question or makes a comment, redirect it by sending it back to someone else to answer or build on. This is a great way to get participants to interact with one another.
  • Test assumptions: Often you need to bring the assumptions people are operating under out, into the open and clarify them so that they are clearly understood by everyone.  Assumptions may need to be challenged before a group can explore new ground.
  • Synthesize: Don’t just record the ideas of participants, but get participants to comment and build on each others thoughts to ensure that the ideas recorded on the flip chart represents collective thinking. It can build consensus and commitment.
  • Hold up a mirror: It helps to tell the group how they look to you so they can interpret their actions and make corrections.
  • Summarize periodically: A great facilitator listens attentively to everything that is said, and then offers concise and timely summaries.  Summarize when you want to restart a discussion that has come to a halt, or to end a discussion when things seem to be wrapping up.
  • Label sidetracks: Remember, it’s your responsibility to let the group know when they are off track. (i.e. “We are now discussing something that isn’t on our agenda. What does the group want to do?”)
  • Park it: At every meeting, tape a flip chart sheet to a wall to record all sidetrack items. Later, these items can be reviewed for inclusion in a future agenda or later during the day. Parking lot sheets let you capture ideas that may be important later while staying on track.
  • Use the spell check button: Most people are nervous enough about writing on flip charts without having to worry that they are spelling every word correctly. You can relax everyone by drawing a spell check button at the top right corner of every sheet.  Tell participants that they can spell creatively, since pressing the spell check button automatically eliminates all errors.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Outreach to African Americans

Outreach to African Americans

Conducting outreach to African American and other ethnic communities can be challenging if it's a new experience for you and/or your organization. One of the most important lessons to be learned is to know as much as you can about your target audience. It will help you to devise a strategic plan.

It's always wise to follow these steps in reaching the African American audience:
  • Plan your approach
  • Develop a list of goals and objectives
  • Conduct a needs assessment with your audience
  • Understanding attitudes and culture
  • Ways to reach your audience
  • Develop a marketing or communications plan for your event or project
  • Plan your media relations efforts or earned media
  • Evaluate your outreach efforts
  • Identify key strategies and tactics
When preparing your outreach efforts, public awareness campaign or event, remember that every campaign is designed to:
  • Create awareness
  • Educate and inform
  • Remind the audience of your message
  • Call to think
  • Call to act
It's also important to involve the target audience in your research and campaign. It's helps the target audience to feel invested in your outreach activities. Ascertain the challenges and barriers that may prevent your audience from participating in your outreach and engagement activities.

For more information on outreach activities, please download a free copy of our e-book at entitled, Outreach to African Americans at

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Stage Fright

Coping with stage fright
You are about to facilitate a workshop. People are starting to enter the training room. Your executive director or general manager is sitting up front. Funders are sitting in the back of the room. Your boss stands up to introduce you and you walk toward the stage.
As you approach the front of the room your confidence fails. Your stomach starts doing flips, your palms are sweating, and your mouth feels like it's full of cotton balls. You pick up your notes and your hands are slightly shaking. As you start to speak, your voice quivers a bit. Has this ever happened to you? Welcome to the world of stage fright. Most professionals and business people have stated that they prefer instant death over standing up and speaking to an audience.
You are not alone if you have had this experience. Almost everyone has, even people who regularly speak to groups. Preparation is critical in overcoming stage fright. There are a few concepts that may help you to avoid stage fright:
Know your audience:
Before making a presentation, it’s always important to acquaint yourself with both the audience and the setting. Try talking to a few people who will be in the audience before you start. Reviewing the list of participants will give you a better idea of the organizations that will be attending the workshop.

Remember to look over the setting before you present. Find out where you will be speaking and try to get there early. Check out the room’s acoustics, sit in a chair and see the room from the audience’s perspective. Test the equipment and assume nothing. Be flexible—it’s the key to being a successful trainer.
Prepare your material:
Never underestimate how important good research and preparation are to reducing your anxiety. Knowing what you want to accomplish, what you are going to say, and how you are going to say it, will make you feel less nervous. Mark Twain said that it took him 3 weeks to prepare an impromptu speech. Here are four rules for preparing your presentation:
  • Know your topic. Audiences can sense when you are bluffing and feel that you are unsure of your topic.
  • Prepare more material than you think you will use. If you need to give a minute or 45 minute presentation, develop enough materials to last longer. It's better to cut back than to run out of things to say.
  • Consider questions your audience may ask you. Come up with answers to potential questions before you give your presentation. Either incorporate the answer into your presentation or hold them in readiness in case they come up.
  • Memorize the first 60-seconds of your presentation. The greatest anxiety is experienced at the beginning of every speech. It could make you more comfortable allowing you to get rolling smoothly.
  • Avoid rigid rules. Remember to use humor in your presentation if possible. It allows the audience to relax a bit and giggle. They tend to be alert and waiting for the next funny comment that will come from you.
Usually after your presentation, participants will come up to you and congratulate you on a job well done. Most speakers who think that they are nervous don't really appear to be nervous to the audience at all. Stop beating yourself, chances are you are a great presenter and facilitator. The more you practice, the more confident you will be as a speaker. Most importantly, remember to have fun with your material, your presentation and most importantly with the audience. You will find that the audience wants to have a good time too.
Remember, every presentation has 3 essential objectives. The first aim is to educate: the audience should learn something from your presentation or speech. The second is to entertain: the audience should enjoy your presentation. The final element is to explain: all parts of your speech should be clear to your audience.

Remember to enjoy each and every presentation.