By Rosie Davies, Research Fellow (Patient and Public Involvement), People in Health West of England

Get any group of people together and you can be sure there will be different views and personalities. In public involvement meetings we love those different voices, however, in order to allow everyone to be heard, not just the loudest person, some facilitation skills are required.

At People in Health West of England (PHWE) we offer a half-day ‘enhancing facilitation skills’ workshop to help people run meetings about health issues with patients and members of the public. The workshop is run by Rosie Davies; Research Fellow at PHWE, and Cathy Rice, a member of the public who has been involved in health research.

Here Rosie shares her top tips for facilitating public involvement groups.


On 19 June Cathy and I ran our popular ‘enhancing facilitation skills’ workshop with participants coming from a range of backgrounds including researchers, public involvement staff, voluntary organisations and the public sector.

During the informal and interactive workshop we covered; considering what’s important for members of the public attending meetings; agreeing ways of working together; thinking through different aspects of the facilitator’s role; as well as adapting facilitation style to suit different situations.

Our top five tips for facilitating public involvement are:

1. Agree ground rules

Agreeing ground rules helps to shape expectations and support you and the group to stay on track. It can also build trust and provide a reference point if you need to challenge behaviour later on.

2. Co-facilitate with a public contributor

Having a member of the public as a co-facilitator or co-chair helps to create a sense of shared ownership and ensure that acronyms and buzzwords are avoided.

3. Stay focussed

It is important for you in your role as facilitator to keep the group on track and manage contributions effectively. That means stimulating constructive and focussed debate whilst allowing everyone to have a voice.

4. Be prepared

Having a good meeting includes planning in advance, following up and feeding back afterwards, as well as work during the meeting itself. Think about what is important to the group members, from clear directions to the venue to post-meeting debrief and support.

5. Manage different behaviours

Strategies to cope with different behaviours and vulnerability are useful to build your confidence. During the workshop we share real life examples and discuss various strategies and techniques to ensure all group members can contribute to a successful meeting.

Very friendly environment and facilitators were very good and friendly 😊

The fact that the trainers had ‘lived experience’ of mental health and health issues [worked well]

Really good workshop – very well modelled!

I feel more confident about facilitating

[I am] so pleased for tips on how to deal with different personalities. This is great – not just for facilitating!

Participants at enhancing facilitation workshop June 2019

Here are just a few of the changes participants are going to make as a result of attending the June workshop:

  • Get better on ground rules now I know what they’re for
  • Try to be more reflective when faced with different situations as a facilitator
  • Use volunteers to co-facilitate
  • Think about how I can provide feedback to [public contributor] members more effectively
  • Plan for better pre-event communication and make a checklist for facilitating
  • Ensure that…public contributors…have opportunities to co-chair

Would you like to learn more and build your confidence in facilitating public involvement groups? We are holding another workshop on Wednesday 9 October in Bristol. You can sign up here.