Firstly, get comfortable with silence. Wait long enough, and someone will speak. NEVER answer your own question. Get used to the awkward feeling of long pauses, especially when people are just warming up.
Affirm everyone when they contribute. NEVER criticise somebody’s ideas or conclusions. Create a safe, accepting “no-fail zone” for people to contribute.
“I like what you’re saying”
“I’ve never seen that before. Thank you for that insight.”
Ask questions. Lots of open-ended questions, that nobody can get wrong. Like I said before, NEVER answer your own questions. It’s not about you.
“What just happened here?”
“How did you feel?”
“What did you learn?”
“What stands out to you?”
Give other people credit for their ideas. Lift them up publicly. Make a big deal of them. Use the vocabulary they give you.
“That relates to what Phil said earlier about X…”
“I love what Rachel just said”
“Can anyone else feed back to Pete about how his story has impacted them?”
“Wow! I have incredible respect for how you’ve coped with that situation”
“Liz, I know you might have some ideas about that point.”
Follow other people’s idea trails. Abandon your own prepared point if the group head down a different path.
“What do other people think about that?”
“Can someone pray for John right now?”
“I really don’t have the answer to that question. Does anyone else have an insight to share?”
Finally, NEVER have the final word – unless it is an encouragement of how well they all did and how much you got out of it. Leave people in a position to carry on conversations with one another. DON’T follow discussion time with a “mini-sermon” – this just positions you as the “expert” and undoes the effort you have gone to in empowering them. Remember that facilitation is about giving others a voice, a value and an impact.