Use Your Body When Facilitating


The facilitator is a servant, always serving the person or group who is authorizing them. In service to the group, it is essential that you make it clear exactly who you are working for, before you start facilitating a meeting.

You need to get explicit about where your authorization to facilitate is actually coming from. Announcing who the Convener actually is (the “meeting owner”) helps you to do your job, because people understand who (and what) you are serving. They understand your role.

Once you clarify your role and related authorization, you may proceed. You bring your tools to the facilitation: your experience, that set of juicy markers, the flip charts, and the other stuff you need.

You also bring your body.

Your body is always positioned somewhere in the room, and it is either sitting or standing. Somewhere. And, it is in a posture. It’s also dressed in clothing (presumably.)

Whether you care to realize it or not, you are continuously signaling something with your body, which includes your face. And your postures.

When facilitating meetings, be aware of your postures. This (strangely) includes some very little things, such as who or what you are looking at.

And for how long.

To be effective at facilitation, pay attention to the subtle effects your postures, positioning and gestures are having on the group as a whole.

Here are a couple of things to think about…

…the following forms & actions are authoritative in nature:

  • Standing when the others are seated
  • Documenting the goings-on (white board or flip chart or notes)
  • Pointing your finger
  • Sitting or standing deep in the room, facing the door
  • Being dressed a little better than the ambient level of dress in the room

…so be very careful about how you use these non-verbal devices. Pay attention to the fact these devices are authoritative in nature. Avoid them when you want to “be background.” Use them when you want to “be foreground.” During the span of a typical meeting, you are typically oscillating between these two extremes.

When you use these devices, you are projecting authority. When you refrain from these non-verbal forms, you are refraining from projecting authority. Try to be very deliberate about both.

You can go much further with leveraging your non-verbals. But first, to make the most of these non-verbal tools, it is important to make sure the people in the room are completely comfortable with you moving about.

You want to be able to move about naturally so you can use positioning (later) to maximum effect. And so my guidance is to move around periodically, early on, so the folks get used to that. If you are working with a team, get them used to you moving about. After a while they will get used to it and “forget about it.” Thereafter, you can make the most of that freedom-of-movement, in service to the group’s process.

Here are some examples.

Say the group starts discussing something. And one person starts saying something specific that you quickly recognize as being really key to helping the group.  By simply positioning behind them (ideally a little to the right) you signal non-verbally that you are supporting (and indeed, are authorizing) that conversation. The theory here is that people use signals and signs to make sense of things. To make meaning.

Here is another example. If a member of the group is in the middle of executing the “endless monologue” pattern as others are rolling their eyes, use your body to shift the discussion in a subtle manner. Simply move into the general area of the speaker and if they do not slow down, eventually move into their personal space in very small increments until they do.


Once you become aware that people are ascribing meaning to your non-verbals, and that you can use your body as a facilitation asset, you can experiment with the use of your body to become a fantastically effective facilitator.


The facilitator is a servant, always serving the person or group who is authorizing them.


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