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on January 28, 2006
This is a wonderful, practical, well-written book, with 60 facilitation secrets that are worth far, far more than the price of the pages. In fact, I learned more from this book than I did from a nationally recognized Advanced Facilitation course for $1700.

The chapter on consensus-building, which introduces 4 common techniques for building consensus (Delineation, Strengths and weaknesses, Merge and Weighted Scoring) I found particularly useful. The 6 high-level agendas for common facilitated sessions (among them process improvement and issue resolution) are a must for every facilitator.

I would recommend this book most highly for facilitators who want to build on their existing skills rather than as an introduction to the field, as some of the secrets (those related to dealing with dysfunctional behavior, for example) assume some foundational facilitation skills. However, anyone interested in the field would benefit greatly from the secrets in this book. A truly great addition to the facilitator's library!
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on March 11, 2005
The Secrets of Facilitation delivered success for me at a recent series of conferences. My primary role on the day was to open the conference and engage delegates in thinking about the future and formulating questions, and observations to put to various speakers throughout the day. Thereafter my role was to facilitate the question and answer sessions and generally keep the conference moving along. Getting the opening right was crucial to the success of the day.

The first 2 conferences were deemed to be successful but I knew that although the level of participation was reasonable it could be better, with more questions and more people asking them from the floor. Also I felt, due to the uncertainties of change I hadn't managed to create the rapport and warmth in the room I would have liked. By the end of the day it was still a little frosty!

Prior to the third Conference I had ordered and received the "Secrets of Facilitation". The book arrived on the Monday,two days before the last conference. I read it Monday evening and Tuesday in readiness for the third conference on Wednesday. My motivation - were there any secrets I could apply to improve my opening pitch, generate more involvement and more questions. By Tuesday afternoon I had read the book and my attention was focussed on chapters 2 and 4 The Secrets to Questioning and the The Secrets to Starting - and to some extent on chapter 3 the Secrets to Preparing. I also had in mind PeDeQs for my direction giving and Secret 27 (the Secret to Q&A Sessions). Late Tuesday afternoon I rewrote and replanned my opening to better focus it around the IEEI outline and set up the participation for Q&A by following the steps outlined in secret 27.

I applied the Secrets on Wednesday morning at the 3rd Conference and noted the reactions. The opening flowed better and a greater level of rapport was achieved. The opening also established greater involvement and participation in the pre-questioning process and sequence. During the Q&A more questions were asked than at the other 2 conferences - and these kept coming throughout the day. The PeDeQs sequence for giving directions also improved understanding and execution of activities throughout the day.

I might be biased, but at the end of the day I felt the mood of delegates was not as frosty as the other 2 conferences, and subsequent analysis of conference evaluations showed that, in comparison to the other two conferences, we had improved on all our ratings. The client also thought that this had been the best of the 3 conferences. Of course, I could put this improvement down to familiarity with the conference process (it was the third one, after all) - but I don't think so. I had made sufficient changes, (based on my reading of "the Secrets of Facilitation") to the way I facilitated the third conference to know that these changes - some process, some change in words and/or emphasis had made the difference.

As I sit here and reflect on all 3 conferences, I would also like to make the point that had we really followed the 5 Ps of Preparation with the client - putting together the Conference Agenda would have been easier, and if we had focussed on probable issues to a greater extent than we did I am convinced our Conference Process would also have been different.

So overall, I have had a great learning opportunity and experience helped in no small measure by Michael's book - the book really does deliver!
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on February 27, 2005
A very comprehensive resource for guiding group facilitation. Each chapter begins with a list of questions that will be answered. The book is organized around 60 secrets, which are presented in the back of the book as a quick guide. These secrets are clustered by chapter under major headings. The major secrets (and chapters) are The Secrets Of (To): questioning; preparing; starting; focusing; recording; information gathering; closing; managing dysfunction; consensus building; energy; and agenda setting. The closing chapter covers applying the secrets to special situations: very small or very large groups, designing a conference, conference calls, and facilitating remote participants. This book has an abundance of solid content, and its organization is excellent.
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on January 14, 2008
A great book for those engaged in facilitation. It is well written and easy to understand. It is one of the better books I've found on the topic. The reason for 4 start instead of 5 is the price of the book. Books that would compliment this are "Leading Through Collaboration" and Leading Groups to Solutions: A Practical Guide for Facilitators and Team Members
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on February 19, 2016
If you have no idea about facilitation like me, then this is your book. I started a job that required to facilitate a series of meetings and I didn't have any idea how to do it without creating a disaster. The book starts you with a step by step and provided several examples, which allow you to see how the theory applied. It changes my perspective on how meeting should be run and how to make them more productive and fun. However, you should read or at least skim through it before every meeting, because you have to gradually change your mindset.
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on February 10, 2005
I rightly say a must "have" because this is a fantastic book - not just to read (and forget ;-) ), but to keep by your side and imbibe the secrets into your everyday life!

I have been looking around for books on running meetings smoothly and everything that goes with - most of the ones I have seen were really trash. This one is rather different.

To be frank, not being from the US, the author is unknown to me - but what he writes is good stuff - and very practical.

What I have learned is that to be an effective manager - apart from having reasonably good "content" skills, what is equally, if not more important is people skills - and in today's management arena - one of the most important interaction is in the form of meetings - and if you can master that interaction - one can go a long way - and this is one of the first book that I found to really help me with that.
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on February 1, 2005
What is facilitation really? It is talking to someone in a manner that encourages them to talk. It could be facilitating a large meeting, contributing while you are attending a meeting that someone else is running, having a one-on-one conversation with your boss, or talking to your teenage daughter about her curfew.

In all these situations, you want to talk to someone in a manner that encourages them to open up and communicate with you. And, this book can help. (Granted, if you are looking for help with the teenage daughter you are going to have to do more extrapolating than if you are facilitating a meeting, still it's there.)

This book provides basic communication skills that encourage others to contribute. It is written clearly and in a flexible manner. You can choose to read a whole chapter thoroughly or to read the checklist at the end of a chapter. The skills are powerful and practical and best yet, actionable.
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on January 23, 2011
The book is an incredibly valuable resource, a treasure chest of jewels for both experienced and new facilitators. It addresses situations commonly encountered in the preparation and facilitation of sessions. The secrets are extremely useful insights into the world of facilitation and provide practical and powerful secrets to refresh the experienced facilitator, equip the new facilitator, and ensure not just facilitation success, but professional facilitation success. The book captures the secrets in a concise manner and the cases help bring the situations to life and make application of the secret understandable. The sequence of the chapters has a logical flow, following the principles. The layout is clear with excellent and frequent use of headings. The use of examples and case studies is frequent and valuable in connecting the dots on the learning. The combination of all of these factors sets it apart from any other book on facilitation.

Secrets of Facilitation is a bible for all new facilitators that we are training in Hydro One. It is the first book and the one book that our new facilitators require as their primary resource.

I am a visual person and a criticism I have of the book is that the pages don't have enough pictures, charts, tables, drawings, etc. to break up the words on the pages. Insertion of even cartoons or pictograms or stick people would help to bring life to the pages and break up the monotony of words. So would the use of colour!!! As I'll detail below, some of the figures seem cluttered with many lines and boxes. Colour would help differentiate them and help the reader to focus on a specific part of the figure.

Parts of the book are similar to what has been taught in the Effective Facilitator course and cross referencing it would be helpful, since some of the insights are addressed in more detail there.

Irrespective of these criticisms, the book as it currently exists is a gem that I would strongly recommend to any facilitator!
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on October 25, 2009
First off, I have to say this is a great book. I love almost everything about it - except that it uses that over-worked term 'Secrets'.
Things I liked about this book:
- great overviews, in diagram format
- wonderful questions and answers at the beginning and end of each chapter
- language is straightforward and not too North American

Some things I didn't like:
- Secrets - Ugh!! If they were really secrets do you think you'd publish a book on it?!
- some of the examples were unhelpful, although I can see how some people would recognise them, I'm just not a fan of using school board examples, or sales pitch examples
- No space for writing notes to self - the addition of the 'secrets' section at the back helps, but I like to have some room to jot 'notes to self' as I'm reading this kind of book

If you are looking for a book to learn meeting facilitation from, this is an excellent choice: just don't think that what you're getting are 'secrets' - they're a little more than common sense, and do actually work, but they're no secret. If you put that aside, this is definitely worthwhile getting.
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on January 25, 2013
I have many facilitation books but this is the one I gravitate back to when I am preparing for high stakes facilitations. It's not an easy cover to cover read, but it is an awesome reference manual. I have put many of Wilkenson's practices to work and they have helped me improve the experience and results from my own sessions. I saw him speak at a conferance, his presence was living proof of what he teaches so i bought the book. Highly recommended
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