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Create a safe space & build rapport

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TL;DR recommendations
—Work with ground rules and social contracts to establish expectations and set safety boundaries —Play with anonymity, e.g. anonymous polls where people feel safe to share disagreement —Encourage feedback throughout the session —Build rapport with the participants’ event before the session —Balance introvert and extrovert friendly activities, so that everyone feels comfortable sharing

As a facilitator, it's important to create an environment where all participants feel safe, respected, and valued. This not only helps to build trust and foster open communication, but it also encourages collaboration and creativity.

Here are some tips to help you create a safe and inclusive online space for your participants:

🤝 Tip #1: Establish Ground Rules Setting ground rules at the beginning of your workshop helps to establish expectations and boundaries for all participants. This can include rules around respectful communication, confidentiality, and participation. Make sure to allow time for participants to ask questions or suggest additional rules that they feel are important.

🤝 Tip #2: Create a Social Contract A social contract is an agreement between all participants that outlines the expectations, values, and commitments for the workshop. This can include commitments around confidentiality, respect, and participation. Creating a social contract together can help to build trust and create a sense of shared responsibility for creating a safe and inclusive environment.

🤝 Tip #3: Use Anonymous Polls Using anonymous polls can be a helpful tool for allowing participants to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgement or reprisal. For example, you could ask participants to rate their comfort level with sharing their opinions or experiences on a scale of 1-10. This can help you to gauge the overall comfort level of the group and make adjustments as needed.

🤝 Tip #4: Encourage Feedback Encouraging feedback from participants can help to create a culture of open communication and continuous improvement. Make sure to provide opportunities for participants to share their thoughts and suggestions throughout the workshop. You could also consider using a feedback form or survey at the end of the workshop to gather feedback and suggestions for improvement.

🤝 Tip #5: Balance introvert- and extrovert-friendly activities

Be mindful that not everyone in your session will be comfortable unmuting and stepping into the spotlight. It’s important to prepare a mix of activities that speak to introverts and extroverts and ensure everyone can contribute. Think about balancing sharing and reflection moments and group and individual work.

Some formats you can experiment with: —1-2-4-all: One-minute silent reflection, two minutes sharing in pairs, four minutes sharing with another pair, harvest once everyone is in the main room. Allos everyone to gather their thoughts before sharing, and the gradual increase of the groups makes sharing with another person more comfortable, allowing everyone the opportunity to share.

— Speak Up: In alphabetical order, everyone has one minute to share their insights regarding the prompt. Allows everyone time to share and reduces the contribution anxiety since everyone knows the order they need to share.

There is a secret ingredient that transforms ordinary groups into extraordinary teams, and it's called rapport.

Building rapport is the key to unlocking the full potential of the groups you are working with. By establishing trust and fostering open communication, you create a safe and inclusive space where participants feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. With rapport, you can encourage active participation, promote collaboration, and navigate conflicts effectively. The result? A dynamic and cohesive group that achieves meaningful outcomes. 🔥 

Here’s how you can build rapport in a human and genuine way:

🤍 Use warm and inclusive language, address participants by their names, and show genuine interest in their contributions.

🤍 Share relevant personal experiences or stories that demonstrate your understanding of the topics being discussed.

🤍 Practice active listening, show empathy by acknowledging participants' perspectives, and respond thoughtfully.

🤍 Provide equal opportunities for all participants to contribute by involving quieter individuals and managing dominant personalities.

Equally important, here are some things you want to steer clear off, as they will most likely damage the rapport:

⛔ Avoid favoritism or biases; treat all participants with equal respect and attention.

⛔ Don’t interrupt, or talk over participants.

⛔ Don't dismiss or invalidate participants' opinions or experiences.

⛔ Don't tolerate disrespectful behavior or allow participants to dominate the conversation, creating an unbalanced dynamic.

⛔ Avoid ending the session abruptly without providing opportunities for participants to ask questions or seek further support.

🧰 For your toolbox:

If you'd like to explore more practical tips for building rapport, check out the following extra resources we curated for you: 📚 Building Rapport: Top tips for facilitators