Facilitation Preparations

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Effective facilitation requires key steps in preparation, particularly around logistics, content, and facilitation strategies. It's important to set an inclusive tone from the start, be familiar with the key issues that may be directly addressed in the meeting content or may indirectly emerge during the meeting, and have strategies to handle any potential "hot" moments in which conflict occurs or concerns arise. Successful meetings address contemporary issues with nuance and sophistication, with structures and approaches that enable deep participation by all.

Meeting Preparation

Much of the hard work in executing a successful, inclusive meeting comes in the planning stages. A well-planned meeting has structures that enable all to engage deeply in the meeting content, produce meaningful deliverables, and continue to make progress afterwards. On the Cutting Edge began a very successful series of workshops for geoscience educators starting in 2002. Their facilitation guide provides an excellent first stop for all facilitators as they set the structures and approaches for meetings. Below are key components:

The Facilitation Team and Target Audience

An important decision early on is who will be in the room. Considerations include who has critical information, perspectives, and authority if any decisions must be made. Organizers should anticipate any likely power dynamics that will arise in the meeting (e.g., if participants are a mix of graduate students and faculty, or tenured and pre-tenure faculty, open conversation may be more difficult). Finally, consider the financial model of the workshop: if there is a fee, will that exclude potential participants without appropriate financial support.


Set an inclusive and equitable tone through pre-meeting communication with participants, co-facilitators, and hosts. This means respecting everyone's expertise, local knowledge, and time constraints. Provide adequate time for any homework, with at least one reminder to complete critical tasks, and make sure that any homework is valuable to the meeting outcomes. Make the goals and agenda available before the meeting and alert participants to any sensitive topics that may be part of the program. If appropriate, a meeting website can serve as an information hub for before, during, and after the event. Building trust is critical for getting full and open participation.


Coordinate with co-facilitator(s) so that the planning is done equitably, with clear roles and responsibilities from planning through implementation and follow-up. One person can take the lead, but if they do all of the work with no input from the other person, it's not a co-facilitated meeting. Discuss any logistical needs of the facilitators to ensure that the facilitators can participate fully.


Coordinate with hosts to accomplish a few things:

  • Determine any logistical needs that the participants will need to participate fully. Physical spaces, technology tools, timing, amenities, and planned activities may need to be chosen to account for the local context. The most basic logistical decision is whether the meeting will be virtual or in person.
  • Discuss any local laws, regulations, or institution rules around diversity, equity, and inclusion content. You want to make sure that the host guides whether there are any topics that need to be framed in particular ways to avoid conflict with higher authorities.
  • Discuss particular issues and goals that meet the needs of the participants.
  • Establish the role of the hosts in the workshop. Will they be full participants, co-facilitators, or somewhere in between?


Survey the participants to hear their needs, concerns, interests, and goals. Make it short and anonymous (unless identities are needed) to ensure participation. As a courtesy, send it at least one week before the deadline and send a reminder. Use it to identify any potential power dynamics or conflicts, finalize goals and activities, and build specific talking points.

Code of Conduct

Share the appropriate code of conduct based on the meeting host/sponsor (e.g., the NAGT Code of Conduct for any NAGT workshops) with the participants before the meeting so that they can read it ahead of time.

Content Preparation

Designing any meeting that will be valuable to the participants requires content that expands their knowledge and skill sets, activities that apply the knowledge and skills in ways that engage participants, and resources that participants can use beyond the meeting to continue to build and refine their expertise. This is especially true for meetings that address equity and inclusion in the geosciences, because participants will enter the meeting with varying levels of explicit and implicit views on the topic and varying degrees of expertise. As with any meeting, there is no perfect content that will fully meet the needs of every participant. However, key steps in the content preparation can make a profound difference in the overall effectiveness of the meeting.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Scholarship

Research and writing on diversity, equity, and inclusion are extensive and evolving. Therefore, facilitators, regardless of the exact topic of your meeting, should commit themselves to continually engaging with the scholarship. There are numerous books, podcasts, social media feeds, and other resources that can help. Meetings and trainings can also be useful. Choose a strategy that is sustainable for you and that fosters growth and sophistication. Below are some resources that may be a good starting point:

Design the Content

Use backwards design concepts to plan the content and implementation of your meeting. Start by setting goals that state what the participants will be able to do as a result of the meeting, keeping in mind your target audience. Also note any deliverables (a report, a strategic plan, data compilations, etc.) that will be meeting outcomes. Then design activities to engage participants, accomplish the goals, and produce the deliverables. Meetings should provide opportunities for participants to participate and reflect (read a description of how one teacher did this in their classroom), so build in those moments and allocate sufficient time in the agenda. Also try to anticipate potential moments in which the conversation might pivot based on the engagement of the audience (e.g., if more/less time is needed on a particular topic based on the interests or experience levels of the participants). Other considerations include:

  • Including activities that are particularly helpful in tackling unconscious bias; read a reflection on effective approaches to unconscious bias training (note that the source, Harvard Business Review, has a limited number of free articles each month)
  • Including activities that help participants recognize and address structural biases; read about how to implement anti-racism in the geosciences in an article from Ali et al. (2021)
  • Implementing engaged pedagogies
  • Building in breaks for recharging and for participants to handle things like email, allowing them to focus during the meeting time
  • Planning for how meeting notes and deliverables can be created during the meeting through online workspaces for participants, photos of physical collaboration space, and notes taken by facilitators within the agenda

Background Data

Arming yourself with data can help with meeting preparation on at least two fronts: having some context of who might be in the meeting and providing evidence that can become means of engaging (or maybe redirecting) the audience. Data indicating structural biases or inequitable outcomes are particularly valuable. Local hosts might be able to provide datasets, but there are also broader data repositories, such as IPEDS, and links in this website from ADVANCEGeo.

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These webpages are based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences under grants #2028640 and #2028642.

Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.