David Finnegan
Facilitating circular discussions
Facilitating circular discussions
One of the toughest skills to learn as a workshop facilitator is managing circular discussions.
I'm talking about those discussions where where the team goes around in circles discussing the same topic multiple times.
Here’s my top tips on how to handle circular discussions:
  • Time-boxing - let the group know that you’re going to set a timer for this discussion, the time-pressure will help people be more concise in their thoughts.
  • Note taking - Listen to the discussion and add notes to your whiteboard. Visualising a discussion will help the team recognise when they’re repeating themselves.
  • Addressing repetition - Tell the team when they’re repeating themselves, highlight the notes on the board that cover what they’re saying and ask them (politely) to move on.
  • Challenge relevance - Circular discussions have a tendency to get off track, if you feel like what’s being discussed isn’t relevant to the topic at hand, highlight it with the team.
  • Summarising - Once you feel like enough has been said, interject with a summary, ask the group if you’ve missed anything and if not, move on.
  • Deciding - If the discussion needs a decision to move forward, summarise and then ask your decider to decide what you should move forward with.
  • Parking lot - If a discussion is stretching on too long, and its not crucial to resolve it for the purpose of your workshop, add a post-it to your parking lot and return the discussion later if you have time
What are you top tips for managing discussions in a workshop?
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