NA TIG Week: Maurya West Meiers on Facilitation Tips When Working With Groups

I’m Maurya West Meiers, Senior Evaluation Officer at the World Bank and coauthor of A Guide to Assessing Needs: Essential Tools for Collecting Information, Making Decisions, and Achieving Development Results.

I often work with groups in carrying out needs assessments, collecting data, training, facilitating retreats, etc.  So I’m always looking for facilitation tips and resources.  Today I’m sharing some favorites.

Lessons learned: 

If your end-goal in your meeting with a group is to gather data or make decisions (through focus groups, multi-criteria analysis, etc.), you’ll want to do some early rapport building to get people comfortable with one another and talking.

  • Make sure the right people are in the room. It seems obvious, but take the time to define your targets in advance and make sure that those participating are those targeted.  Be prepared to gently remove people who don’t fit your pre-defined needs.  Have another coordinator with you to help in this process.  And have your room comfortably furnished and arranged.
  • Learn the names of participants in advance and give a warm greeting when they enter.  These are common networking techniques because they work and put people at ease.
  • Use name badges and table tents. Have these items ready.  You may wish to let participants write their own names instead of pre-printing them.  Perhaps Jennifer prefers to have everyone call her Jen – so give her the chance to write her name as she wishes.
  • Get people talking early.  As people enter the room, introduce them to others – and have ideas listed on a flip chart or card that they can discuss with one another.  Keep people moving and mixing.  Use a chime or bell to signal a move.

Use icebreakers.  An easy icebreaker involves giving participants name badges and asking them to write two or three things they feel comfortable discussing with others.  Example:


  • Energizers and games. If your group work – such as in a retreat – covers a lengthy period of time, use energizers (usually involving some movement) or games to keep people alert and engaged.  If you search for energizers on YouTube, you’ll find many ideas you can adopt and adapt for your purposes and you’ll see how they work ‘in action’ and not just on paper.  This quick and easy energizer is one such example.

Rad Resources. Here are some of my “go to” books and websites on facilitation techniques and tools.


The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Needs Assessment (NA) TIG Week with our colleagues in the Needs Assessment Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our NA TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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