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3 Voting Techniques to Use in a Facilitated Session

Posted by Steve Flanagan on 10/7/13 4:00 AM
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Frequently, at the end of a meeting or facilitated session, a decision on a course of action must be reached, now that analysis, discussion, and ideas have been generated. Having a group come to a decision in such a session can be a difficult task even for a skilled facilitator.I always try to avoid formal majority voting, as there will be winners and losers—someone is going to be unhappy. My preference is to try to have the group reach consensus, usually using the “five finger” technique, where I will ask the participants to show their level of support to an idea by showing a number of fingers (e.g. five fingers means strong support, one finger means no support). The idea under discussion is amended until all participants can support the idea.

In situations where a vote is needed to reach a decision, the voting technique needs to be clearly outlined and fair.

Here are three voting techniques used to reach a decision in a facilitated session:

1. Weighted Voting

This technique involves all participants and makes it easier to bring opposing views to the surface. The facilitator draws a grid, listing participant names vertically and the options horizontally. Each person gets as many votes as there are options. Participants distribute their votes among the preferred option(s). The votes are added and a decision is made.

2. Plus/Minus Matrix

This technique involves all participants and brings objectivity to the decision-making process. The facilitator draws a grid; the criteria for decision making are listed horizontally and options under discussion are listed vertically. S/he starts with the first option and discusses if it meets each criterion. S/he then assigns a plus (+) to the criteria that are met and a minus (-) to the criteria that are not met. Lastly, the facilitator totals the number of pluses for all options, and the option with the most number of pluses is chosen.

3. Final Ballot

This technique involves everyone and allows them to remain anonymous. The facilitator states that there will be no more discussion. The idea, issue, or solutions to be decided upon are listed on the flip chart. Participants are asked to write their choice on an index card or slip of paper. The papers are collected, the votes counted, and the final choice is announced.

The decision-making process in a facilitated session or meeting can be very challenging, especially when the decision being made has consequences. A skilled meeting facilitator needs to have a variety of decision-making tools in their repertoire and the ability and confidence to use them.

For a more extensive list of decision-making tools, along with idea-generating facilitation tools, tips for dealing with conflict and managing group dynamics, and much more, check out Langevin’s Facilitation Skills for New Facilitators workshop.



Steve has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education and dreamed of being a pro soccer player. Steve translated his love of soccer and physical performance to the corporate sector and became a trainer. He’s had the pleasure of training within the government, large corporations, and as an independent consultant. Outside of training, Steve’s two biggest passions are his family and guitars, which he collects and plays!

Topics: facilitation, presentation skills, tips-for-trainers

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