All posts by Michael Ukwuma

About Michael Ukwuma

Michael is a Project Manager with years of experience in nonprofits and managing startups. He shares what he has learnt over time with like-minded persons. He gives classes to persons who plan a future in the nonprofits sector or as entrepreneurs.

Good Facilitator Skills │ Everything you need to know!

To have good facilitator skills and lead Workshops and training events is an interesting prospect. However, mastering the art of facilitation takes some years of practice to attain. The purpose of this article is to simplify all you need to know to excel as a facilitator.

Who is a Facilitator?

To facilitate is “to make easier” or “help bring about.” Thus, facilitation in the workshop context is to help smoothly manage the flow and learning activities of a group. The facilitator guides the activities and attempts to maximize member’s time and energy by keeping the event and discussions on track – in terms of time, topic and learning outcomes. By taking a group through a process that produces a specific outcome (learning, decision-making, problem-solving, etc.), facilitation generally encourages all members to participate in some way, shape or form. By recognizing and utilizing the unique and valuable contributions of each member, an effective facilitator increases the collective value of the entire group.  By mediating the group process, the facilitator plays an active and critical role in ensuring that a group taps deeply into its own knowledge. Good facilitators should be able to:

  • value people and their ideas
  • think quickly and logically
  • communicate excellently

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The Role of a Facilitator

The role of a facilitator is to help the group move through their intended agenda, reach learning targets while carrying along all participants. The facilitator helps ensure that these learning targets are in harmony with the pre-identified learning objectives. The facilitator is therefore expected to:

Plan each day’s activities

  • Decide the agenda for each day
  • Gather resource materials that support topic
  • Arrange games, techniques, stories appropriate for your target group
  • Prepare learning aids. Improvise if necessary…
  • Set up your materials in the classroom ahead of the participants’ arrival
  • Meet with other co-facilitators to preview the day’s activities and split up the workload.
  • Ensure that the classroom has easy access to conveniences, water supply, adequate ventilation, and good lighting. Ensure that girls and women in your class have access to the nearest provisions.

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Set Up Learning Activities

  • Be at hand to welcome participants to the class
  • Be sure that all participants understand why they are at the training
  • Access knowledge/skills level of participants
  • State the purpose of the group session,
  • review the agenda and ground rules, and
  • remind everyone how much time is available for discussions. Everyone should be encouraged to participate actively while observing the laid down ground rules.


Gathering information

  • Make sure everyone has a chance to participate in activity,
  • remember that some participants are shy so may need encouragement
  • Use probing questions
  • Invite the experts to speak up
  • Call on individuals in the group
  • Invite debate
  • Try to keep discussions focused on the topic and get to the root cause of any issues,
  • ask for more details in order to gain clarity if needed
  • Key questions include: How do we understand …? What have we tried before that works? What would happen next? Is that what you mean?

Organizing information

  • group common thoughts and ideas together
  • avoid repetition, but don’t lose the details
  • Don’t lose good ideas that are off-topic – record these for use in the future
  • Key questions include: Are these ideas similar? What would happen if we tried these ideas together? Can anyone add anything to these ideas?

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Connecting ideas

  • Rephrase ideas so they relate to the issue we are discussing
  • Combine ideas to build solutions
  • Key questions include: How can we use that idea to help with our issue? What can we do today that will make a difference? Can we see some solutions or next steps emerging from our ideas?

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Wrapping Up a Discussion Session

  • Summarize key learnings,
  • Make sure everyone is clear on what has been decided and what will happen next.
  • If there are assignments to be completed after the class, be sure that everyone knows who is responsible for this and when it will be turned in.
  • Remind everyone how important it is to involve ourselves in these activities.
  • Don’t forget to thank everyone for coming, and ensure everyone is aware of the next agenda on the program of events if any.

Dealing with unproductive behavior

Difficult behavior is often unintentional or occurs as the result of an emotionally charged situation. You can expect a lot of such ‘charged’ moments in a human rights education class. You might be dealing with inattentive members who are engaging in side-bar conversations, taking calls or indiscreetly dealing with e-mail.  You might also be dealing with personal agendas or disrespectful behavior.  Progressive intervention will most often assist you in dealing with behavior that does not help the group achieve its meeting goals or objectives.  The following tips might be useful:

  • Use gentle and appropriate humor for redirection
  • Restate the ground rules directly
  • Direct your questions to the individual for clarification
  • Seek help from the group
  • Address the issue at a break or offline


Remember to

  • make eye contact,
  • smile,
  • be enthusiastic
  • avoid “closed” body language such as crossing your arms or turning your back on your audience
  • listen (listening is a key part of successful facilitation)

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Games for Learning │ At First Sight

Summary: This game is an icebreaker in which people write their first impressions of each other on a large piece of paper taped to their back. At First Sight, is also an entertaining party game. Suitable for players of age 13 and up.


Group size: 10 or more players.

Time: 15–30 minutes.

Materials: A large piece of paper or poster board for each participant, pens and sturdy tape.


How to play

At First Sight, is a fun game in which players write their first impressions of the people they meet. This game works well as an icebreaker at the beginning of a seminar when there are new people present, or when people don’t know each other that well. If some people already know each other, that’s fine too – people can simply write nice and encouraging words or adjectives to describe each other.

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Before starting to play At the First Sight, large sheets of paper and writing materials are passed around. Each player has to write their name on the top of the paper. The sheets are taped to each player’s back so that they can’t see their own. Players are instructed to introduce themselves to each other and to discuss for a few moments. They then have to write an adjective (their “first impression” of the person they just spoke with) on each other’s papers. After this the players continue going around and getting to know new people, repeating the process.

After a while, each player should have several adjectives and descriptive words listed on their sheets. In the end, players introduce each other to everyone by reading the words written on their neighbour’s paper. This should be pretty much fun, and if people play the game correctly, lots of kind things should be said about each player.

Players should only write nice and encouraging words to the papers, such as “beautiful eyes” or “great sense of humor”. Writing mean, rude, or critical words is forbidden.

Games for Learning │ Pick a Colour

Summary: Pick a Colour is an icebreaker that allows people to get to know each other. Each player takes a number of colour cards and shares facts about him/herself. Suitable for all ages.


Group size: 3–12 players.

30 minutes–1hour.

Materials: Paper cards of multiple colours.


How to play

Colour cards are poured into a bowl. Everyone in the group has to take as many or as few cards as they like from the bowl. For each card they take they have to answer a question, which depends on the colour of the card. The colours can be designated different meanings, such as:

  • Red card: favourite movies
  • Green card: favourite music
  • Yellow card: favourite things to do
  • Orange card: favourite animals
  • Brown card: most memorable or embarrassing moments
  • Blue card: wild cards (players can share anything they wish)

You can be creative and choose any questions you think would be fitting for your group. The facilitator will call out the colour topics and everyone will go around the room sharing one answer for each card. As an example: if you chose two red cards, you will have to name two of your favourite hobbies. Players continue to go around the room until each colour topic has been shared.

Variation: Instead of making colour cards you can also use a deck of playing cards. Different cards can represent a different type of question.

Fun Stories │ The Golden Eagle

A man found an eagle’s egg and placed it under a brooding hen. The eaglet hatched with the chickens and grew to be like them. He clucked and cackled; scratched the earth for worms; flapped his wings and managed to fly a few feet in the air.

Years passed. One day, the eagle, now grown old, saw a magnificent bird above him in the sky. It glided in graceful majesty against the powerful wind, with scarcely a movement of its golden wings.

Spellbound, the eagle asked, “Who’s that?”

“That’s the king of the birds, the eagle,” said his neighbor. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth—we’re chickens.”

So the eagle lived and died a chicken for that’s what he thought he was.



You become what you think about yourself. If you think highly of yourself, then that could be your reality. If you think lowly of yourself, so you shall remain. Know also that it is not enough to think highly of ourselves but to act positively and work towards our goals.

Games for Learning │ Adjective Game

Summary: The adjective game is an effective icebreaker that helps people to introduce themselves in front of a group. It is a lot easier to learn new names by using adjectives. The Adjective Game is a great way to start a workshop. Suitable for players of age 10 and up.


Group size: 5–20 players.

Time: 15–30 minutes.

Materials: A positive attitude.

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How to play

Players are arranged so that they are standing or sitting in a circle and everyone can hear each other speak. Each person must think of a word that describes him/herself as a person. The catch is that the word must start with the first letter of their first name. For example, a participant called Chioma may choose to describe herself as ‘Cool Chioma’.

Normally the game begins with the facilitator, who is also in the circle. If Chioma was the facilitator, she would start the game by turning to the person on her left and saying loudly: “Hello! My name is Cool Chioma”. The person whom Chioma has just introduced herself to (let’s call him Seyi) must then turn to the person on his left and introduce both Chioma and himself by saying: “Hello! This is Cool Chioma and I am Strong Seyi”. The third person must then turn to the fourth and say: “Hello, this is Cool Chioma, this is Strong Seyi and I am Powerful Palmie”.

The basic idea is that everyone in the circle has to introduce him/herself to the next person in line and at the same time introduce everyone else (including their chosen adjective!) who have been introduced before him/her. This continues until all of the participants have introduced themselves. The last person in the circle then has to remember everyone’s names in order to introduce them all to the person who went first.