- Have a casual presence. This will put your group and you at ease and grease the conversation. However, it is also important to remember that you need to bring the energy to the group. Your eyes, body language and vocal patterns need to model engagement and energy.
- Address each individual by name and be personable with them. It is too easy for small group discussions to have a formal/stuffy feeling and this environment prohibits open comments from the group. Keep it loose.
- Set time limits on discussions - particularly if you have a set number of topics to get to that concern different members of the group. The easiest way to shut down someone from adding to the value of a conversation piece is to make them feel like their topic won't be discussed.
- Mix up cliques in the room - physically and conversationally.
- Paraphrase comments from the group to make sure you (as the discussion leader) fully understand them. This will also help the group process any longer, jargon-filled or fragmented comments.
- Make certain the group gets to physically move around at least every 60 minutes or so. This could be switching chairs, getting into quick small groups to discuss what they've learned so far, doing an experiential activity to strengthen a certain lesson or actually taking a break. A quick boost of movement is the same as a quick boost of attention energy and leads to a more tuned-in and thus valuable group.
- Encourage note taking (a passive way to stay connected to the conversation) and model this for them. Don't forget to have someone capture relevant, revisit-able information on a flip chart or PowerPoint for later discussion or review.
- Call out anyone who is actively being disruptive or harmful to the group process. Best case scenario is to do this in private and away from the group, but if you don't have the time or space for that, then a gentle, verbal nudge in the group can be helpful to get them back on track. Be nice about it though. Mean = distrust = disengagement.
- Do your absolute best to keep the discussion focused and on track. Your primary role as the discussion leader is not to bring value to the group through input, but rather through leadership and thought directing.