Sharon here 👋 I’m newly on our Community content team and I’m all about all things content (organizing, structuring, delivering, improvising), and one more—facilitating, which is a huge part of speaking!
I know what you’re thinking—you’re here to grow in your speaking skills, so what does facilitation have to do with that?
Being comfortable using your words with an audience can go a long way in helping everyone feel comfortable and also receive the direction they need to best engage with what they—and you—have to bring.
Being able to command a room, bring everyone’s voices to the surface, and help your guests (or as a speaker, your audience) genuinely engage are all skills that help incredibly when it comes to emotional intelligence, which is a huge asset when you’re public speaking.
As someone who’s been a group discussion facilitator, I’ve had my fair share of talking, listening, sharing prompts, dividing groups into smaller breakout groups, and helping guests get as much value as they can out of your time with them.
Here are my biggest tips for facilitating conversation, and how being mindful of these can help you grow in your speaking skills:
1. Help your guests open up with an easy icebreaker.
Depending on what you’re facilitating, your guests are entering your space all coming from a different place—some of them may not want to chat, some of them may not feel comfortable with strangers, or may feel insecure about public speaking themselves. Choose an easy question that helps reveal everyone’s personality and puts them at ease.
Why does this help? When you speak to an audience, you’re considering that people are coming from all sorts of emotional places. Being mindful of that and receptive to your audience and who they are can help you consider how your message is landing, and what users need or want in the moment.
2. Listen more than you talk, and bring others' voices to the surface
Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions that allow each guest to bring their opinions, and validate them genuinely (not robotically). Encourage shyer guests who may not speak up until they are called on to weigh in, and above all else, listen to the conversation that’s happening and where it’s going with every guest’s addition.
Why does this help? Every speaker has an audience. You might even say that profound speakers are effective because they drive their audience to action—one way you can see the impact a speaker has is to observe how their audience engages, reacts, and then acts. Strive to be a speaker that considers how best to serve their audience.
3. Be confident with your presence
Guests look to leaders and facilitators to provide direction. A facilitator that is insecure in keeping the conversation moving or unreceptive to how conversations are going doesn’t serve the group with their presence.
Why does this help? You’ve got something valuable to bring and you’re creating an experience for your guests to walk away with, so keep things moving in your delivery and presence so that can happen!
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot is how my colleagues project confidence in the meetings we’re in, and sometimes I can’t help but be entranced by their vision or how efficiently and comfortably they facilitate a room of 30+ people. If you notice that someone’s great at facilitating, go ahead and tell them 🙂
So here's a question for you: As we kick off the weekend, I’d love to know what you’ve learned from facilitating—whether it’s been a meeting, a creative event, an Atlassian Community Event, or a get-together with friends. What have you noticed helps you with public speaking? What facilitators really made an impact on you?
💡 Takeaway: Find an opportunity to practice facilitating a conversation! Whether it’s asking an open-ended question at your next hangout, volunteering to help run an event, driving a meeting, or leading a brainstorming session, go ahead and get that practice in, and let me know how it goes!
Sharon TanCommunity Manager
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