“Holding People in Conversation” – Facilitation skills Training

© Copyright Protected, Sean Germond.

Facilitation is about creating the right conditions for holding people in conversation in order for challenges, views and ideas to emerge to everyone’s benefit” (Sean Germond)


The ability to ‘facilitate’ people in conversation is becoming an essential competence for leaders. We like to define facilitation as being all about the skills of ‘holding people in conversation’. Holding both in terms of the underlying group processes, as well as the content or subject of the conversation. Pygmalion has a developed what we believe is a unique facilitation framework that has demonstrated a powerful impact on line manager’s ability to chair meetings, conduct workshops and contribute to internal training programmes.

“Holding people in conversation” (best delivered as a 2 x 2-day format) is practical and experiential training programme, using real-time-real-life scenarios in a simulated environment. It focuses on the core facilitation competencies as summarised in our 5-5 facilitation framework, and builds on what people would have already been exposed to in other related training sessions.

The learning outcomes include:

  • Understanding and experiencing the role of being a Facilitator who needs to hold people in conversation
  • Practical knowledge of the 5×5 Facilitation Framework and insights into the dynamics of working with groups – i.e., content (“what we are talking about”) versus process (“what is going on”) considerations
  • Practical tools to ensure a productive conversation takes place in a group session (i.e., effective “meeting management practices”) to ensure adherence with actual workplace meetings
  • Simple techniques of dealing with the dynamics in the group (i.e., games people play and how to effectively engage/challenge/include)
  • How to leverage the informal roles that people bring to the group in terms of their psychological preference or preferred style of participation, to maximise their contribution and involvement.

Why the “Hands” are so symbolic to the Model

Hands have a deep symbolic relevance for human society and human interaction. The hands are our two intricate multi-fingered body parts that define our unique status as a human being. They are our tools, and reflect our engagement with others and how we shape our world. They are our chief organs for physically manipulating the environment. They enabled us to create fire, gather food, communicate ideas (gesture, art, writing), and provide comfort. In this sense, your hands represent the skills, tools or ‘technology’ that you call upon to do the work that is required.

The idea of this MODEL is that we use our hands and who we are to weave others’ ideas, experiences, knowledge into the conversation. The choice of word, ‘to weave’, is deliberate in that in order to create the rich tapestry that emerges from the threads of the collective conversation, you need to have a sense of what the emerging patterns look like, and to reflect this back to the group.

Given that when people are ‘in conversation’, they often are not seeing the result (linked to content and outcomes) of that conversation nor paying particular attention to the process (the dynamics in response to the approach being followed) underlying that conversation!.

Your role requires you to pay attention to what others may not be noticing. Weaving is about seeing what others are not seeing. As Charles Handy once remarked (in person, Tällberg Forum 2006), it is about “seeing the empty spaces that others are not noticing!”

The Person behind the Hands

Behind each set of hands though, behind the technology that is available, are individual human beings who each bring their unique personal context, personality, life story, knowledge and experience. The same applies to you! It is therefore important that you understand your frames of reference, your mental models, your assumptions and what informs and influences your own contribution to the conversation.

By being aware of who you are, being honest with yourself about your own motives for being part of the conversation, and monitoring the impact that the conversation and other’s behaviours are having on you, you will be effective in ‘holding others in conversation’.

This has been called ‘mindfulness’, and requires you to be centred yourself and appreciative of your ‘positioning’ with regards to your role and what you are offering to others.

(updated Feb2021)