Facilitation Overview

We use this framework to guide our thinking about how to run a session. It’s a model, so it’s nice in theory and helps us plan. It’s not meant to be followed step by step (although at first when you are learning it can be), but more to deepen our understanding of how we are walking through a conversation or session.

I’ve created a handout which includes the Facilitation Framework with descriptions, one without words that you can use to make notes on, and a copy of the Diversity Wheel.  Class2Handouts.


The conversation changes as you move through a session. The types of questions shift as you guide someone or a group from where they are starting toward a new place.


Spending time in this stage sets the stage for a successful session.

I think about how to see the situation from the clients perspective. I’m looking to determine where they are, so I can ask a question or offer a prompt that starts with them, and shifts them toward where they want to go.

The information can be gathered in a variety of ways. If you are working with an individual as a coach or counselor, you might have a conversation or have them fill out an intake form. In an organization you might use an assessment tool or a focus group.

What do you know about your audience?

I’m looking for a holistic view of a person or group.

The Gardenswartz and Rowe Diversity Wheel reminds me of the complexity of an individuals identity. All of the layers come together into a unique whole.

In the center is personality of the individual. The Internal Dimensions are what we are born with. External Dimensions are what we develop along the way in life. The Organizational Dimensions acknowledge the effects of the environments we work in.

I pay more attention to certain areas of the diversity wheel depending on the environment I am working in. In an organization, the org culture tends to dominate, so it’s particularly important in that context.

Working with an individual, the emphasis and my attention shifts to the areas where they are saying they feel stuck. So if they feel unhappy where they are living, I’d pay particular attention to the External Dimensions.

What is desired outcome?

Start with what they say they want. Listen to their reason for being willing to work with you. This is story they are telling about where they are. There may be places that are stuck that they are aware of, but you may also notice other places where there may be another way to look at things.

Listen between the lines. Look for the desire that is underneath the story.

Selecting the prompt

A prompt is the statement or question that meets the participants where they are and starts them on the journey to where they want to be. We have prompts that we use over and over built into all our products and the ImageCenter. You can start with one of those, and you will get consistent results. You can often take it to another level if you can dial in the question and customize it for the person or group. It can be as simple as using a specific word they can saying, or framing in the time block that they are talking about.

Once you have identifies the question, participants select images in response. I usually tell them there are no rules about how they do it, just a time limit of five minutes to select and arrange the images.

Starting the conversation

This is the divergent part of the conversation, that opens possibilities.

In the first part of this stage, you give instructions to the participants and share the opening prompt you have selected. The participants then select and arrange their images in front of them in response to the prompt.

In this stage of the process, you are starting to get people talking or thinking about the topic, and surfacing stories. It is a stage where you are increasing the information. The goal is to generate a lot of conversation or ideas that are different than the day-to-day types of stories the participants are used to hearing. Most of the exploration at this stage is getting as much information as possible from an individual. The questions are used to probe for more detail to explore what is sparked by the ideas shared.

Suggestions for questions to ask to start the conversation

Deepening the Conversation

This is the part where you leave space for reflection.

In this stage, you are asking participants to reflect on what they have heard. This may be unfamiliar to many people. Often, there is a tendency to want to jump right into finding a solution or focusing on a problem. Encourage the participants to hold back and allow the conversation to develop and the ideas to influence each other.

As the facilitator at this stage, ask questions of the participants that help them listen deeply and begin to see what can emerge from combinations of ideas within the group.

Suggestions for questions to ask to deepen the conversation

Narrowing the Conversation

This is the convergent stage, where the conversation gets focused.

In this stage, you are asking participants to begin making choices, focusing the conversation and deciding how to move forward. This can happen through conversation, or you can use other sorting methods like sticky notes or index cards.

As the facilitator at this stage, ask questions of the participants that help gather the information from the conversation and think critically about it.

Suggested questions for narrowing the conversation

Evaluate the Conversation

In this stage, the main question is whether you have succeeded in moving the participants toward their desired outcomes. If the answer is yes, you can move into creating action steps and follow-up opportunities for additional reflection. If no, what additional questions were raised? You may need to repeat the cycle with a new approach and possibly a new opening prompt.

Suggested questions for evaluating


Debriefing the Conversation

At this stage, you are helping participants create meaning from the conversations and reflect on what they have learned. This can be the most important part of the conversation, so make sure you leave enough time for it. It is really easy to allow the early parts to run long and cut into this section. Resist that temptation at all costs.

Each individual section of your session should include debriefing questions that apply to that section. For longer programs with multiple focus areas, there should also be an overall debrief of the whole program.

Suggested questions for debriefing