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High School Facilitator

In this video Craig interviews Chloe Beattie, a high school senior interested in how people with adversarial positions can talk to each other with respect. She sought out Craig and with his help, planned and facilitated her own meeting on a controversial topic. She did this for her senior capstone project.

Chloe tells us why she is interested in meeting facilitation and shares her advice for others who want to learn more about it. And Craig tells about how he found ways to practice facilitation when he was getting started.

This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody. Hey it’s Craig Freshley. I am here today with Chloe Beattie. Chloe is a local high school student. She’s a senior, and part of being a senior at her high school is doing some sort of community project. It’s called a capstone.  She reached out to me because she was interested in meeting facilitation. We talked about what she was interested in, she actually came with me to three different meetings that I facilitated, and watched; we talked about them before and after each meeting. And then she planned and facilitated her own meeting, to which she invited people. So I’m really thrilled to talk about this a little bit after your experience.

Craig: Tell us, first of all, why did you choose meeting facilitation? Why are you interested in that?

Chloe: Well, first I was inspired by the thing you do on the side called Make Shift Coffee House where people come together from all different viewpoints and discuss a topic that they all don’t always agree on, and I was really inspired by that because I find that I have a really difficult time listening to people and getting past my own thoughts and really respecting others. So I thought that why not try this out and see how you do it and learn the skills myself, but also why not teach them as well? So I thought that facilitating a meeting myself would help me share what I’ve learned and help others that I know learn the same skills.

Craig: Awesome. That’s so cool that you came with those interests. So Chloe designed a meeting and we chose a topic. Do you remember what the exact question was?

Chloe: Yes, yeah I do.

Craig: Why don’t you tell us the question?

Chloe: The question was, “What do you think are the effects smartphones have on society?”

Craig: It was pretty cool. We had people in the room from age 11 to over 70. And Chloe did a really nice job of facilitating this conversation so we could understand each other. How did it go from your point of view, the meeting facilitation?

Chloe: Um, I thought it went well. When you did the debrief at the end and everyone got to give me some feedback I thought that I did better after that, after I got to hear what people had to say. I was really nervous to start but once it got going it felt good and people responded and had things to say. So I felt like it went pretty well for my first one.

Craig: Yeah. I asked the people at the end, “What do you think she did well?” And the comments came one after another – you did a lot very well. Here’s a question that you didn’t know was coming but I just thought of and I think it will be of interest. Do you think that meeting facilitation is something that you’re born with or that can be learned? Do you think it’s something that, you know, some people just have a gift and you either have it or you don’t? Or do you think it can be learned by anyone?

Chloe: I think that some people have a natural ability with it. I think there’s a lot to learn, but I think some people might be more comfortable than others to speak with a bunch of people. A lot of times that’s something that people get really nervous about. But I do think that with hard work and with learning I do think that people can learn it.

Craig: Right, it helps if you’re not afraid to speak in front of people.

Chloe: Right, that’s just an added bonus.

Craig: If there’s somebody out there, maybe even somebody your age or in college or starting out in a career and they want to learn meeting facilitation skills, would you have any advice?

Chloe: I would say, I went to a couple of your meetings and got to see how you did things and I wrote down some notes, and I would say find someone that you really respect in how they do what they do, and talk with them. We’ve had a lot of really good conversations that have really helped me. You asked me a lot of questions without telling me what you thought; I got to kind of think for myself what I thought. So I would say, if you’re interested, to find someone who really brainstorms your own thinking as well. And take what you like but then use it as well and use what you like and mush it together if you want.

Craig: Okay. And by the way, Chloe, when you came to me you took notes. I mean you were pretty thoughtful about what you observed and then we talked later. I’m going to add onto that a little bit – you might have touched on it when you said “Make it your own. Take what’s useful from what you’ve learned from somebody else and make it your own.” But then you gotta do something with it. You had your own meeting and you made it your own, and I really think it helps to practice. When I was starting out learning meeting facilitation I sought out groups where I could volunteer, be a volunteer facilitator. I mean, I took some risks. It takes courage. I was over my head more than once. But you know, that’s how you learn – when you jump in and you just try to run a type of meeting that you’ve never run before on an issue that you don’t know much about with people you don’t know. Just try it, that’s the very best way to learn. That’s how I learned a lot – on the street, on the job, in the meeting room.

Craig: Chloe, any last things you would like to say before we wrap up our little video?

Chloe: I would say that I came into it with two goals. One, learning the skills myself, and then the other, teaching the skills as well. I think the big thing that I learned was how to listen and how to respect others’ opinions and really try to understand them. And I’m definitely going to carry that on into my everyday life. Sometimes I might slip up a little bit, but I just think it’s really important and I hope that people I facilitate for will be able to take that too because I think it’s a really important thing that I learned here.

Craig: Awesome. I wish the same thing for all the meetings that I facilitate, that the people I work with become better listeners, and me too.

Craig: Thanks a lot. That was great.

Chloe: Thanks.

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