Start-ups

    Innovation Facilitator Tool Kit

    FacilitatorToolKitv1I am sometimes asked what a Facilitator should have in their kit bag. Here’s my answer — the Innovation Facilitator Tool Kit list. The items are below in bold. Many have links to where you can source the materials.

    I’m assuming the facilitator is a hands-on project leader who facilitates meetings, such as idea generation or strategy sessions. I did not take into consideration travel via plane or car. Obviously, some things are more portable than others. Consider this a master list which you can subset for your needs.

    Some of these items are not available off the shelf retail, so, put this kit together ahead of time so you can focus on design and executing your session plan as you near a meeting date.

    Let me know what I left out!

    Here’s the Tool Kit (all items in Bold):

    • A Sturdy Flip Chart. Mercy, if I ever had to use one of those flimsy three legged aluminum easels again I might just commit harikari. Check out this Quartet Duramax easle. It’s so much more stable than the classic three leg easel, easier to use, and quite convenient to set up and tote around. Yes, it’s more expensive, but you’ll use it for 10 years easily. Don’t forget flip chart paper. The kind that sticks to the wall without masking tape is mighty handy. Oh, yeah, Duct Tape is always handy. Of course, you might need more than one flip chart depending on the size of the group and what you have planned.
    • A set of fresh Mr. Sketch markers. There are other good markers out there (such as the Charters brand), but these are my faves — and have those pleasant scents. Markers that smell like old fashioned markers make me ill. Tip: do not get markers with rounded tips. Always get chisel tipped markers. You get sharper lines and you can create effects using either the broad side or the narrow tip. The set of Mr. Sketch 8 is great, 14, even better. A set usually lasts a few meetings, so, have a couple spare packs in the closet.
    • Post-It’s in several sizes. Having a nice stock of Post-Its makes sense because you will be using them sooner or later. 3 by 3, 3 by 5, and the larger ones as well. I try never to get lined ones, or ones with darker colors. Darker colors have people squinting, and, they don’t photograph well. DO NOT unwrap Post-Its from the cellophane until you use them, the glue goes bad quite fast. And you’ll be well advised not to buy off-brand products here… the originals work better. There is nothing worse than a room with hundreds of yellow sticky’s on the floor.
    • Sharpies pens/markers for meeting participants. Fine point. NOT Ultra fine point. Flair pens work fine too.
    • Ball point pens for meeting participants. Amazing that folks will show up without a pen, but it happens. When folks are going to write more than a sentence it’s best to move away from markers. I find that with a real pen, people elaborate more.
    • A bell, a gong, a chime, or a train whistle to get the groups attention. If you have to yell all the time to get attention you’ll lose your voice — and they’ll ignore you. A facilitator who is always yelling has no dignity.
    • A decent portable music player. There are lots of good portable players out there, but don’t under power yourself, the tiny ones won’t be heard in a large hotel ballroom, nor will the speakers built into your laptop. Bose is always a good bet.
    • A playlist with instrumental music. Why instrumental? Because some folks can’t have music in the background while they’re working. Songs with voices are a quantum leap more distracting than instrumentals. Light jazz (ala Vince Guaraldi, or Pat Metheny), upbeat/light classical (Debussy) are good choices. You can have a separate more rock-n-roll playlist for breaks, before, after, and for post session dance parties. I’m assuming you have a smart phone or iPod for this. And don’t forget your charge cord.
    • Bring a Camera. Your phone camera may be good enough, but an electronic camera is a great way to document data and the event in general. Getting a snap of each flip chart full of Post-Its can save your life if the data gets lost in transit back to home.
    • Avery dots. Yes, you can have people make marks but I think the stickers make people just a little more thoughtful in convergence. At least the one inch size. Have a lot of them in multiple colors.  A bunch of wacky stickers of all sorts of things can also be fun to have and useful.
    • A fully equipped kit would have a small portable projector. This as a back up for the ones hotels provide, or companies provide. A projector that blows a bulb is useless and it can hose your entire meeting. If you’re bringing the projector, don’t forget your spare bulb.
    • Of course you need a laptop, don’t forget your power cord. And, don’t forget the slide advancing gizmo to move slides remotely. I’ve had good luck with Logitech.
    • Never hurts to have a small stapler. And a lightweight three hole punch, or at least a simple hole punch.
    • Connectors to projectors. You really need a few. I have a Mac, so, I need the Mac port outbound for a serial connection, and more frequently now the HDMI. This kind of thing is so easy to forget I keep two, one in the kit bag, and one in my carry on.
    • Banner Paper, a roll of this stuff often comes in very handy. It’s more convenient than a roll of bulky, larger format Mural Paper, which is also highly useful, just a pain in the tush to lug around. An artists sketch pad with over-sized paper (11 by 14 or larger) can also come in handy, particularly if you’re doing some detailed paper prototypes.
    • Speaking of prototypes, I’ve often made professional use of Play-Do,h or the fancier and more permanent Crayola Model Magic. If you want to create a shape in 3D, this is the good stuff.
    • A ream of plain white paper. Because in some locations it’s just not there and people need scratch paper for various things.
    • Legal pads, the standard size, with a nice hard back.
    • A box of Crayons — Get the huge box, and you also might get those sets of 8 for less ambitious projects and individual work.
    • Colored felt tip marker sets — there are times when you want people to use color
    • Name tag stickers — why is this simple thing often forgotten?
    • Oil pastels — this may seem overly artsy but these chunky crayons are great for group large graphic creations, like Mind-Maps, or Process Maps.
    • Scissors, at least one user-friendly larger size.
    • Swiss army knife. This is a bit problematic when you’re traveling, but I pack one in my shaving kit which gets checked. This has really saved my life a few times. The little screwdriver, the wine bottle opener, scissors, etc.
    • Toys — it’s easy to go overboard but in the basic kit you ought to have a few Nurf balls for tossing about in games, maybe some colored pipe cleaners, and I’m a big fan of Gumby bendable toys. Do yourself a favor and do not pack kazoo’s or noise makers. I used to do this and they can turn meetings into chaos.
    • They’re not very portable but clip boards or other writing hard surfaces can be helpful to have.
    • I’ve run across meeting facilities or rooms where they won’t permit you to hang or tape anything to the wall. This can be a disaster. A solution is a clothesline and spring loaded clothes pins. I’m talking a rope! Rope in that heavier gauge can also be used for other things, so, it doesn’t hurt to have it around.
    • Fun Tak. Aka Blue Tak, aka Dap Blue Stik, aka that stuff Nuns use. It comes in handy when you’re hanging posters or other bits of paper. Some facilities allow this, but not masking tape, so, it’s a good back up solution.

    That’s all. Probably best to also pack a good attitude, comfortable shoes you can stand in all day, and a lot of energy.

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