Groupwork Institute Blog

What do you say to them? Our top 5 tips to starting with a new group

We all need the right conditions to open up

You’ve been asked to facilitate a group. How do you make an engaging start? The way you begin can put people off participating before you have even got to your intro activity.

You want people to be actively present, contribute with confidence and to listen to understand others in this group, but how?

No pressure, but those first impressions you make help set the tone for the group.

If you’re prone to being a little nervous or wordy with your opening, this template gives you some simple structure. Adapt as required. We hope this helps.

1. Keep your start simple

Leave the detail about the work to be done until later.

Let’s start. You may like to take a moment and ask people to take a breath and bring themselves present, letting go of other things that may be on their mind.

  • Good morning and welcome [Pause] to the Blah Blah Workshop
  • My name is … and I am from the … [your organisation, or who you are representing] [Pause]
  • I look forward to working with you today

If appropriate, offer an Acknowledgement of Country. This can be short, but be genuine about it.

2. Use pauses and pace

Next time you listen to a powerful, engaging speaker, notice how they speak and how often they take a moment between words.

A slightly slower pace and use of pauses have a grounding effect and help others to hear you. Remember to breathe.

3. Invite others to speak – early!!

Give people a brief picture of why you are here

  • At … [name of your organisation], we provide … [one or two line overview of what you do] eg At the Groupwork Institute, we help people work well together in groups.
  • I have been invited by … [person who contracted work with you] to provide independent facilitation for today’s workshop.
  • I look forward to pooling your experience, wisdom, hopes, issues and concerns [etc] and finding a way forward together.

Allow less time for you up front and more time for people to connect with each other close to the start. I reckon it is good to get folks talking as soon as possible (within 2-3 minutes of the start), and keeping your own intro succinct.

This can help with your own nerves and avoiding long-windedness!

In our last blog, we talked about the importance of establishing ‘groupness’ – helping a group to connect.  If people feel safe, then the ‘terror of rejection’ or suspicions about whether this group is worthwhile will soon abate.

  • Let’s start by introducing ourselves so we know who we are working with for the day. Could you please let us know:
  • Your name and organisation
  • How are you?
  • Your role
  • Hope for the day

Write these questions up clearly on a whiteboard or big coloured circles, so it’s easy for people to see and remember to answer them (up to 4 questions).

4. Confirm your purpose

When you’re asked to facilitate a group, it’s often because the work is complex. Part of the complexity can be people having different understandings of the purpose. Confirming the purpose together creates a space to sort this before you try to do anything.

Every meeting needs to have its purpose clarified at the start. Every meeting. Really.

5. Run through your outline

It’s a common oversight; we get the welcome and introductions done, feel the need to get cracking, and then enthusiastically introduce the first section. Generally, people like to have a big picture of what they’re doing. Checking in with them about the Purpose of the meeting is great, but they also need to know what they are doing, when there will be breaks and what time they’ll be finishing.

Have this written up very clearly on a whiteboard or on butcher’s paper/large poster.

Go to it! In summary:

Practice your opening address.

Remember to keep your start simple, and invite others to speak – early!!! Leave the detail about the work to be done until later  – until after you confirm your purpose, and run through your outline.

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