Monday, February 16, 2009

Why warm-ups for groups are so important

Any group that gathers will move ahead in certain predictable stages.

The more that the group facilitator knows about these stages, the moreher or she will be able to facilitate a group with genuine involvement, depth and disclosure. The best group leaders follow a directed but flexible three-part process:

· A warm-up
· High involvement
· Wrap-up

The proper warm-up allows the group to create readiness for the core of the meeting, whether it is designed for education, planning or another task. The core of the meeting is the high involvement, which may take several forms depending on the task and reason for the gathering — Learning? Brainstorming? Healing? Facilitating an exploration of the participants' deepest thoughts and needs? Making plans or organizing the next step? Or something else?

Finally, the wrap-up bring closure to the meeting itself, even if more work is planned later or other needs must be addressed.

Many facilitators know the value of warm ups — sometimes popularly called "ice breakers" — but often don't know how to select the proper activity for a group. Manuals and books have lots of ideas, but veteran facilitators know from experience that what looks great on paper may not work so well in reality.

In preparing the warm-up segment, each group facilitator must always ask: what do I want to warm the group up to?