Some facilitators work locally, whether it be in the town they live or within their own organization and bring their own trusted flip-charts to work. Other facilitators travel with props checking 1, 5, 10 bags (I know it’s true!) bags through security with everything they need to facilitate small (or massive) trainings.
And there are people like me. Who often do a 1-2 day trip with just a backpack and never more than a carry-on. Traveling light means I ask my clients to provide many of the essentials that I need in the workshop (enter my go-to facilitation rider). It also means that I typically don’t pack many facilitator supplies, typically just a few things that can fit in a small bag about the size of a toiletry kit.
What makes it in, again and again, are the things I always regret not having. Things that created fun or unexpected energy for the group, things that I simply can’t facilitate without, and things that offer me support as a facilitator. Here are my essentials.
We! Connect Cards
We! Connect Cards are a little deck of questions that I love. One of my go-to “warm up the room” exercises is a question exchange, having participants choose a card, ask each other questions, and mill about meeting and learning about each other.
The different types of questions add variety to your conversations and I find that when participants have something in their hands they feel more at ease. I have been continuously surprised when I jump in and participate just how honest and forthright participants will be right off the bat using these cards.
This activity always creates a buzz of energy in the room and is generally a lot more fun way to connect participants then a standard “go-around” type share.
The UFO Ball is my favorite little unexpected tool. The UFO ball is this neat little thing that has two metal connection points on it and if you complete the circuit (by touching both metal bits) it lights up and makes noise.
Now you can do that simply by touching your two fingers to it.
The magic comes in when you can do this with a circle of people all holding hands where people at either end of the circle will touch the metal connectors and it will light up. The whole group completes the circuit! And if anyone stops holding hands… it’ll stop lighting up. I often use it as this fun visual metaphor for how we are all connected.
Mini Metaphors (AKA Facilitation Charms) are little tin of charms is one of my favorite ways to bring the tiniest prop into a debrief or wrap up discussion. I’ll lay the charms out on a table and encourage participants to pick one that resonates with a question I’ll ask or that might speak to something they’ve learned today.
It is endlessly fun to hear the different metaphors and images the tiny charms conjure up for people and I find that people tend to share more interesting and personal ideas and thoughts when they are connecting it back to their charm.
Pro packing tip: put a tissue into the box before you pack it so you don’t hear the charms rattling around the whole time :).
Markers are very special to a lot of facilitators. We all have our bullet-tip or chisel-tip preference and have that brand that we love. And we know why fine-tipped sharpies and Crayola’s will never cut it when it comes to writing on a flip chart. Unfortunately, many of the lovely people who have put together my supplies over the years have often grabbed that cup of markers off their desk without a second thought.
Having gotten myself into this pickle more times than I’d like to admit, I now always bring a few of my own markers just in case. Saves me a world of hassle and anxiety when I arrive early to prep and end up twiddling my thumbs waiting for markers to arrive.
Even though these are in my Facilitation Rider I bring some with just in case. Whether it’s for participants to use as tiny name tents, name tags, or to ask anonymous questions throughout the workshop, I never like to be caught without a few index cards.
I’ll also bring them with incase I want to make little cue cards for myself, additional notes for my prep list or my introduction. Because I have moved almost entirely to modular planning, I don’t like to have my agenda or notes to myself on a big piece of paper and opt for index cards + Facilitator Cards instead. Which brings me to…
If all my luggage got lost and I could only keep one thing that had to fit in my pocket, it would be these little beauties. Facilitator Cards are what keep me feeling prepared and capable even when training starts to go sideways or in unexpected directions.
Unlike a lot of other planning tools that I use like websites, talking to friends, reading books, looking over old curriculum, I can have access to Facilitator Cards anytime, even in the room with the group I’m facilitating with.
I build most of my facilitations using entirely Facilitator Cards at this point which is more than enough reason to bring them with. I also always carry them for the inevitable last-minute planning and changes of direction that come up. When I arrive and the props box never made it, the room isn’t conducive to a certain group configuration, or simply I learn that the agenda I’ve created isn’t the agenda they need, the first thing I reach for is Facilitator Cards.
It’s a short list but these few supplies have gotten me out of a lot of jams, consistently bring energy to my trainings, and helped me create little memorable moments in my facilitation. What’s in your essentials kit? Let us know! Hit us up via email, Instagram, or Twitter — we’d love to hear what your essentials are!