Have you ever been in that “awkward” situation when a group comes together but no one is the designated facilitator?

What do you do when no one takes the lead?

I think we’ve all had that moment when everyone stares at each other uncomfortably, unsure of what to say or how to begin. We end up wasting precious minutes of the short time we have together, and sometimes never achieve the purpose of the gathering.

Don’t be afraid to step up! We are all in this together, and most people in your group will appreciate your help leading the group discussion.

We will all need to facilitate teams to achieve conservation actions, so take this opportunity to practice this skill! You don’t need to be perfect, no one will remember if you stutter or slip up, and the fact that you are willing to step up and help is an important step forward.

Note – Ahead of time, for video conference calls, headphones help avoid feedback from speaker/microphone so I highly recommend you use headphones to minimize sound interference.

Now, in that Zoom meeting, you’ve stepped up and offered yourself as a facilitator unless someone else would like to volunteer (I’ve never had anyone raise their hand to take the lead from me, but I always offer the option). As a facilitator your goal will be to engage with every person in your group to make sure everyone has a chance to talk. Your job is to make space for everyone to contribute.

To move the conversation forward, you can choose people to speak in turn if needed, and encourage group members to stay on mute when not speaking to avoid background noise.  I will often write down in my notebook who has spoken so I make sure to call on everyone at least once.

I also like to incorporate an icebreaker into discussions to help lighten the mood and learn more about my team. While discussing the answer the question posed to the group or complete the task assigned, you can invite the speaker to share the icebreaker as well.

Here are some icebreaker ideas:

  • share one fun fact about yourself
  • share your favorite place in nature
  • share one interesting thing about your country that others might not know (or city if not an international group)
  • Share your favorite animal

So don’t be anxious when you find yourself in a group without a designated facilitator, because wherever you go, you can do it! As with any skill, you will get better with practice. So practice, practice, practice! Because nature needs you.

Do you have any suggestions for being a self-designated facilitator during online breakout sessions? Add them to the comments below!