Do Your Homework

Before a session, have a think about what you need to know.  There are some generic aspects, but mostly what you need to know will be driven by the situation in which you are facilitating.

Some of these questions should be asked during the session.  Others will need to be answered before the session.  Lots of these questions could be asked both before and during the session.

You may not be able to ask some of these questions outright - for example, in some circumstances you should not ask, "How tolerant are the key decision makers of dissenting views?"  This means you need to read between the lines to find out the answer.  The answer will generally be available, but you may need to be creative in your questioning, or simply listen hard to find the answer.

  • Why is this session being held?
  • How could 'success' be recognised?
  • Who is going to attend?
  • Why are these people attending?
  • What do they want to get out of the session?
  • Who are the key decision makers?
  • How tolerant are the key decision makers of dissenting views?
  • When is the session being held?  Why?
  • Will the session start on time?
  • Is finishing early or late OK?
  • What is the venue?
  • What equipment will be available/needed?
  • What do I need to bring?
  • Is butcher's paper OK?  (This may seem to be a strange question, but I've been caught out on this before.  Some people just seem to have something against butcher's paper.)
All the generic aspects, plus:
  • Is this the right time to be doing strategic planning?
  • Are the right people able to participate?
  • How does the organisation see it's purpose?
  • What is the organisation's history?
  • Is there a past strategic plan?  Has performance been evaluated?
  • Is there a documented Vision, Mission & Values?
  • Do these need to be revisited?
  • Who are the organisation's key partners and other stakeholders?
  • What are the relationships like with key partners and key stakeholders?
  • Who are the 'competitors'?
  • What pressures are there on the organisation?
  • What does the organisation want to achieve?
  • How is the organisation funded?
Example 2. TRAINING
All the generic aspects, plus:
  • Why training and not some other approach?
  • What are the skill and knowledge gaps?
  • What are the learning objectives?
  • What organisational policies/procedures/practices/systems should be covered?
  • What are people's preferred learning styles?
  • What is this history of learning approaches?  (What will people expect or reject?)
  • Is collated feedback from prior training events with this audience available?
  • Is evaluation required?  How strict should it be?
These lists are not exhaustive, but I hope that they provide you some ideas to work with.