Creating change,  Diversity training,  Facilitation and Design,  Inclusion

5 Easy Tips & Tools for Facilitators

As a facilitator training on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, you’ve got a lot on your plate. I know!

Your goal is to effectively design and facilitate workshops to deepen the capacity of participants to:


  • Recognize the full breadth of differences at the organization.
  • Identify the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in all their areas of responsibility.
  • Understand how the dynamics of privilege and marginalization impact folks in their daily lives.
  • Address exclusionary behaviors and microaggressions effectively.
  • Use an Inclusion Lens to design and revise programs, policies, systems and procedures that aim to serve all.


That’s a big responsibility! To help you make your next DEI workshop a success, here are 5 of my favorite practical tips:


1. Practice what you preach.

As a facilitator, you need to model what you’re teaching; it’s important for participants to see you modeling the values and degree of engagement you hope to see from them.

Examples include:

  • Being open to new ideas
  • Showing respect for differing opinions
  • Noting and interrupting microaggressive comments and actions
  • Displaying receptivity to challenges and tough questions
  • Assuming others are capable/competent until they show you otherwise
  • Willing to take risks, express feelings and to self-disclose


Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.”

-Brené Brown


2. Use effective communication techniques, including:

  • Ask about the learning needs of participants before you design to provide access to those with differing learning styles and accessibility requirements.
  • Avoid jargon/buzzwords/acronyms; opt for a common layperson’s vocabulary.
  • Present information in multiple formats: verbally, in handouts, on slides or chart paper, in graphics and images, etc.
  • Face participants while talking – at all times.
  • Put all directions in writing.
  • Wander around during small group activities and individual tasks to answer questions and intervene where needed.
  • Start the session with all handouts and supplies on the tables.


3. Encourage group participation and engagement:

  • Co-create Engagement Agreements early in the session.
  • Design the session to move from low-risk/community building activities to those that invite a deeper degree of authenticity and self-disclosure.
  • Give participants time to reflect on prompts before asking them to discuss them.
  • Alternate between allowing people to find their own discussion partner and more structured approaches to invite people to meet and engage with a wider variety of participants during the session.
  • Do not call on people to share unless they have indicated they want to participate.
  • Avoid public embarrassment or involuntary participation by an individual in front of the group.
  • Always share and model before you ask people to participate in self-disclosure/higher risk activities; provide a way by which individuals can “pass” and choose not to participate in the activity.
  • For activities that may involve physical closeness, describe and model it first and give participants an option of being observers.


4. Follow these best practices when giving instructions:

  • First tell participants you’ll be giving them detailed instructions.
  • Ask them to wait to begin until you’re finished.
  • Give a clear overview of the task/activity; share the purpose and how it relates to other information; explain what they’ll get out of participating, etc.
  • Go over details including: format (individual work, small group discussion, etc.); how they’ll be divided into smaller groups, time frame, location, materials needed, level of expected participation, what they’ll need to do at the end of the task, etc.
  • If appropriate, assign a small group leader.
  • Model the activity if necessary (especially important if the activity is higher risk or self-disclosing; in these situations, the facilitator should model a slightly deeper/more risky disclosure than what’s expected from participants).
  • Invite questions to provide participants greater clarity.
  • Begin!


5. Set the stage for success with common sense preparedness tips:

  • Conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to understand the current organizational context, history of EDI efforts, hoped for outcomes for the session, and learning needs of the participants.
  • The day before the event, connect with the person in charge of logistics to review all details and get any last minute updates on organizational dynamics.
  • Plan on arriving at least 30 minutes before the event to set up materials/name tags, double-check equipment, adjust room temperature, arrange furniture, post directional signs, get the “feel” of the room, and greet participants.
  • I recommend staying a few minutes after the event to interact with participants who may have questions or comments.
  • Carry an extra set of your handout originals in case you need to make last minute duplications.
  • Using a PowerPoint presentation? Bring a copy on a convenient thumb drive.


Need more smart strategies, innovative tips, and proven tools to make your DEI trainings a success? My in-depth course, “Design and Facilitate Powerful Workshops on Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice,” will strengthen your capacity to design and facilitate meaningful, productive workshops on equity, inclusion, and social justice. It will show you how to motivate and skill-up ALL employees and leaders to consistently do their part to achieve strategic organizational goals.

This is a lively, virtual course to learn and practice proven approaches that move people from denial and complacency to inspired action. Be a part of creating a more inclusive, equitable and socially just organization – and motivate others to do the same!


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