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Meeting Facilitation

Group-process facilitation is the "secret sauce" of many world-class organizations

Definition of "group-process facilitation"

  • Group-process facilitation, commonly called facilitation or meeting facilitation, is the design and management of structures and processes that help a group do its work more effectively, minimizing the problems people working together typically face. A fundamental principle behind facilitation is the belief in the wisdom of the group.
    Source: Adapted from (Justice & Jamieson, 1999)


  • Success Tip: The term “facilitator” causes confusion as some people use this term as a synonym for trainer or workshop leader, speaker, therapy-group leader, customer service representative, assistant, coordinator, and so forth. We use the adjective “group-process” or “professional” to distinguish the highly-trained person (facilitator) and techniques (facilitation) related to structured group work-sessions where a specific outcome is desired.

The Differences: Presentations, Training, Chairing, Moderation, and Facilitation


Role of the Professional Expert


Adapted from Leadership Strategies, Inc. and IIFAC (International Institute for Facilitation and Change).

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Who are facilitators? What is their role?

  • A professional facilitator is a person who contributes structure and process to interactions so groups are able to function effectively.

  • Facilitators are skilled at handling any type of group activity (from two to 1,000+ people).

  • The group focuses on the “what” – the content, concerns, issues and ideas. The group applies its knowledge and expertise to develop solutions.

  • Facilitators focus on the “how” by guiding the group in discussion, problem solving, and planning, and share responsibility in the outcome.

  • Facilitators are also highly skilled in managing individual and group dysfunction. We know how to navigate through Groupthink, Spreadthink, the Abilene Paradox, the Tower of Babel Syndrome, the Camel Trap, Putting Lipstick on a Pig, and other difficulties and cognitive biases that groups may face.

What kind of activities do facilitators handle?

  • Group-process facilitators play an important role in Organizational Development (OD), i.e. organizational effectiveness. Aside from leading routine status meetings, all other facilitation sessions are OD activities.

  • Some examples of specific activities that facilitators handle:

  • Planning Methods

    • Strategic Planning

    • Change Management

    • Design Thinking

    • Advisory Boards, Voice-of-the-Customer

    • Public and Stakeholder Consultations

    • Project Management

    • Benchmarking

    • Priority Setting

  • Problem-Solving Methods

    • Group Problem Solving (25+ different techniques)

    • Process Improvement

    • Survey Feedback activities

    • Inter-group activities / negotiation

  • Relationship-Building Methods

    • Team-building

    • Customer Service Improvement

    • Team Start-Up

    • New Leader Integration

    • Conflict Mediation

    • Coaching (individual and team)

Adapted from: (Bens, Facilitating with Ease!, 2000) and (Bens, Advanced Facilitation Strategies: Tools & Techniques to Master Difficult Situations, 2005)

What is an IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator?

The International Association of Facilitators (IAF) is the worldwide professional association established in 1994 and now present in more than 65 countries. The IAF sets internationally accepted industry standards, provides accreditation, supports a community of practice, advocates and educates on the power of facilitation, and embraces the diversity of facilitators. IAF members are governed by a code of ethics. 


The International Association of Facilitators Certified™ Professional Facilitator (CPF) designation was created in response to the needs of various organizations around the world who wanted evidence to assure them that the facilitator they were hiring had the credentials to do the job. IAF-Certified™ Professional Facilitators are specially trained and have acquired an expertise in dealing with a variety of groups and situations, and are proficient in each of the core facilitator competencies.

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