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Amber’s 10 Tips for Facilitation

Facilitation Tips for team retreats, planning sessions and more!

Sometimes it’s not feasible to bring in an outside partner to support your planning sessions, retreats and meetings. For those times, I’ve put together my best facilitation tips to help get the most from your day.


  1. Set your intentions.

Think about the ultimate purpose for getting your team together. It should be no more than one to three words. For example, one client chose connection, vision and growth as the intentions for their team retreat. These intentions served as guideposts for every topic and activity during the retreat.


  1. Clarify desired outcomes.

A helpful way to explore outcomes involves the concept of think, feel and do.

  • What do you want people to think as a result of the planning session?
  • How do you want people to feel after the retreat?
  • What do you want people to do after the offsite?

Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time, helps the facilitator and organizer measure success post-event.


  1. Create shared agreements.

Personally, I like to ask the following questions at the start of any gathering:

  • What would a successful experience look like for you today?
  • What fears and concerns do you have about today?
  • What boundaries and agreements do we need to make for you to engage wholeheartedly today?


  1. Assign a timekeeper for each section.

Although I value flexibility, it’s also important to foster discipline by reminding people how much time is available. If necessary negotiate new timelines if something is taking longer than expected or if team members decide the topic is worthy of more time.


  1. Location, location, location.

Let’s be real –  a lake house in Tahoe would be ideal for offsite meetings, but for most of us it’s simply not practical. The good news is there are many other options. Get creative! Look for opportunities to trade space with other organizations or leverage someone’s home. Getting people out of their day-to-day environment makes all the difference.


  1. Incorporate movement.

Sitting for long periods of time is not only harmful for our body, it’s incredibly boring. Figure out ways to get people moving throughout the day. My rule of thumb… make sure people move at least once every 20-minutes or so. Ideas for movement include:

  • Getting people into groups or pairs
  • Stretching
  • Using sticky notes and having people post them on charts
  • Playing music and asking people to move seats (which may or may not involve busting a move!)


  1. Provide fun supplies.

If you’ve ever been in a workshop, retreat or other team session with me, you know I LOVE smelly markers and post it notes. Other people do too! It’s always helpful to give people fun supplies to use and play with throughout the session. By the way… doodling, coloring and similar activities actually help with focus and retention.


  1. Practice gratitude.

Recently I got to witness a gratitude potluck. Kuli Kuli (a rad company from the Bay Area) uses this practice at the end of their team gatherings. Everyone gets an opportunity to share an appreciation, gratitude or acknowledge for everyone on the team. Each person takes a turn being the receiver and hears from everyone on the team and then it rotates until each person has had a turn. Whether you choose this or something else, gratitude is a critical component to ensure everyone feels valued.


  1. Feed people.

But not just anything. Here’s my go-to list for snacks:

  • Mints
  • Jolly ranchers
  • Assorted nuts
  • Assorted dark chocolate
  • Fruit
  • Coffee
  • Herbal tea
  • Water


  1. Recap the day.

There are many ways to review what happened through your retreat. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Have the group mindmap what they learned, achieved, solved, etc.
  • Ask people to recap key points with partner
  • Do a round robin where everyone has to share something different about what occurred during the day


One of our superpowers at StartHuman is facilitation. We love supporting rad organizations and teams with our facilitation services.

Schedule a discovery session with us today to explore working together on your upcoming retreat or planning session.

Amber Barnes
Amber Barnes
Amber is a leadership development professional with a heart for helping leaders maximize human performance in the workplace (and beyond.) With over a decade of experience coaching, training and advising leaders, she writes to helps leaders become more effective. Amber highlights common pitfalls, effective (and human) leadership practices as well as "must-knows" for leaders.