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How Facilitator Cards Can Help You Plan Engaging Workshops

There's a certain magic to doing things by hand. Writing in a paper journal, organizing your thoughts with sticky notes on the wall, drawing a line through the items on your to-do list, and brainstorming on a whiteboard all have the effect of making you slow down, think a little bit differently, and make the distant world of thoughts just a little more concrete. That's why I was so pleased to discover Facilitator Cards, which help you bring the same sense of tangible presence to your workshop planning process while exposing you to 60 different activities and processes you can try in your next session.

What Are Facilitator Cards?

Facilitator Cards are a collection of 60 physical cards, each containing a description of a facilitation process or activity, details about the appropriate group size for the activity (individual, pair, small group and full group), a list of required materials (like flipcharts, post-it notes, index cards, etc.), and a blank space on one side where you can write your own notes using a wet-erase marker. The deck is divided into four color-coded categories based on what each activity aims to achieve (teal for activities designed to surface the group's emotions, green for ideation, yellow for clarification, and red for execution and decision-making).

Like most great tools, Facilitator Cards were born out of necessity. When facilitators Meg Bolger and Sam Killermann (the same folks behind found themselves needing to re-write the entire agenda for a 3-day workshop they were going to deliver at short notice, they decided to write down every facilitation process and activity they've ever been exposed to on index cards, and use these cards to plan their new agenda. This method worked so well for them they started using index cards to plan all of their workshops, and the idea for a deck of beautifully designed, nigh-indestructible Facilitator Cards that any facilitator could use was born.

How Can Facilitator Cards Help Me Plan Engaging Workshops?

I've written previously about some of the other workshop activity libraries offered by organizations like SessionLab, Liberating Structures, IAF and Knowmium, and Facilitator Cards is in a similar vein. What's special about Facilitator Cards, however, is that they help turn your workshop planning process into a more tactile, hands-on experience, whether by jotting down your notes by hand directly on the cards, shuffling through the deck to discover the most appropriate activity for a given part of your agenda, or arranging cards in different "stacks" to plan your activity flow. You can preview the 60 cards online at the Facilitator Cards website.

Virtual Facilitation Activities

Recently, Meg and Sam have also been creating an online version of their process and activity library focused specifically on virtual facilitation, with these activities designed to be run using tools like Zoom, Mural, Miro and Google Docs. Some of their favorite online facilitation activities are Gallery Exhibit (which uses Google Slides), 100 (Bad) Ideas (which uses Mural) and Vanishing Options (which uses AhaSlides).

Like the virtual facilitation activity libraries I've written about before, this resource is available for free and users are encouraged to grow the library by submitting their own activities and leaving reviews. Unlike those resources, the Facilitator Cards team also regularly publish recommended "stacks" of activities that work especially well in sequence - like this. You can find these activity stacks on the Facilitator Cards blog, along with useful articles on virtual facilitation best practices and guides on how to use different software tools like Mural and AhaSlides in your online sessions.


If you're the kind of person who prefers a more hands-on approach to planning (and as my sticky-note covered wall would attest, I know I am) then Facilitator Cards are a great tool to add to your toolbox. If you're less kinesthetically inclined, or if you're primarily interested in how to translate in-person activities into a virtual setting, then be sure to check out their excellent virtual version.

Interested in learning more about how to maximize your participants' engagement during online workshops? Check out the other articles in Seshboard's Guide to Online Engagement.

About Seshboard: Seshboard is an all-in-online online workshop platform that makes virtual workshops as engaging and productive as in-person ones. Book a demo with us today to learn everything you need to know to run game-changing online workshops on Seshboard.


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