Facilitation Trick: Getting Focus Back

With our new Advanced Certified ScrumMaster course, I’ve been focused on facilitation skills for leaders.  I thought maybe sharing quick small facilitation techniques and tips would be a good series posts (to compliment the exercise write-ups posts).

Facilitation Challenge: As a facilitator, you need the entire group’s attention/focus to be brought back to you but the group is actively discussing/working/moving/etc.

Habits: A common habit or initial reaction to this challenge is to simply start shouting above the noise with statements such as “can I get everyone’s attention?”.

Better Approach: Simply raise your hand. Say nothing.  Wait.

What happens the first time you do this:

  • Some people will get quiet and stare at you
  • Some people will also raise their hand ad get quiet
  • As more people get quiet, the remaining will notice something changed and eventually get quiet

Then you will explain this technique going forward:

  1. I’ll raise my hand.
  2. When you see my hand raised, you raise your hand.
  3. Then all angles in the room can see someone raising their hand and follow quickly.

What happens the next time you do this:

  • Some people quickly raise their hand and get quiet
  • Then everyone  else will get quiet.

The benefits are really simple but powerful.  First, people’s brains register the difference of the room getting quiet and hands raising faster than hearing general noise in the room.  Second, as you continue to use this technique with the same people, the speed increases. Third and most importantly, the person currently talking is able to finish their thought/sentence without someone talking over them.

What technique do you use to get focus back in the room?

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