Facilitator FAQs

How can I be more flexible with content and add some information that is important to our cohort?2021-08-10T14:38:17-04:00

This is one of the major improvements to the new Core 2020. Look for a blue icon that looks like two circling arrows in each session. (For example, see page 1.12 of the new Core). One section of content in each session will be designated with this “skip/swap” icon.  This section can be skipped if you are running behind, and swapped out for content that you are adding specific to your cohort. For instance, some members have cohorts that are focused on a specific industry such as food and beverage and may wish to add content specific to this industry. If you skip or swap a section, make sure you let the cohort know and assign the section for fieldwork.

Do you have any tips on using the chat function in Zoom?2021-08-10T14:37:06-04:00

Here are a few tips for using the chat. First check your Zoom settings. The host can allow attendees to chat with no one, with the host only, everyone publicly or everyone publicly and privately. So make sure you have it set accordingly to best serve your purpose.

Think of the chat function as a way to keep participants engaged. Suggest that questions be dropped in the chat, especially if you have a large group.  You can also encourage participants to add their perspective on the topic being discussed in the chat for everyone to see. This allows for more opportunity for engagement between cohort members.

If you are facilitating a section and what participation from the cohort, use the chat as a place to share individual answers to a question.  Participants can share at will or ask  participants to prepare their answer and then counting down, have everyone hit <return>  to share at the same time, not before. This way no one can see what others have answered and it eliminates bias towards perceived answers as right or wrong.

I am facilitating a virtual cohort and some people never turn on their video. Is that OK or how do I tell them otherwise?2021-08-10T14:35:42-04:00

This is a common situation and does take effective communication. When you share the philosophy of CO.STARTERS and the value of the cohort, explain how important it is that we all feel connected and trust one another. This will best happen when we share our visual presence, so all participants can be seen and see each other. Sometimes, it’s helpful to explain – “we know there may be kids interrupting, we know you may join in casual clothes and no make-up, and we are OK that your house might be a mess ‘cause guess what –  so is mine! The important thing is that we accept each other as we are. So don’t be afraid to join.”

There are times when sharing video is problematic from a technical standpoint. There just isn’t good enough service or bandwidth for the person to have their video on. If this is the case, make sure by the next session everyone has a photo of themselves added to their zoom account or whatever platform you are using so at least the screen shows a friendly face and not just a name.

What is a Get Started workshop?2020-11-10T11:31:13-05:00

Created using the CO.STARTERS model, this three-hour workshop helps participants work together to explore their ideas through the CO.STARTERS Canvas, learn how to refine their business model through meaningful customer feedback, and define their next steps.

The Get Started Workshop can be used as a recruiting tool for the longer CO.STARTERS Core program. If you are asked to facilitate a Get Started Workshop, there will be minimal prep time since it is based on material you already know.  Get Started Materials are available for download through your local CO.STARTERS member organization.

What is a Refocus workshop?2020-11-10T11:36:54-05:00

This two-hour workshop helps participants find the focus and clarity needed to shift their mindset and find a new way forward. Participants determine the immediate next steps needed to stabilize their business, re-examine their ventures using the CO.STARTERS Canvas, strategize how to better solve their customers’ changing needs, and learn how to adapt or refine their models.  This workshop is a great recruitment tool for Rebuild, our 10-week program designed for existing businesses. Refocus workshop materials can be downloaded from the CO.STARTERS member site.

The activities where people have to draw makes many uncomfortable. Is it OK if I substitute something else?2020-11-10T11:41:55-05:00

This may surprise you but this is the exact reaction we expect! We all have different learning styles. Public speaking may be easy for some while it’s really scary for someone else. Doing something that makes us uncomfortable or that we find difficult, creates the perfect opportunity for growth and development. Doing something that makes us vulnerable while being cheered on and supported by our peers, gives us confidence to try the next small step.

As for the portraits, it’s not about making a beautiful drawing, it’s the fact that everyone tries and shares their best. We have seen stick figures, pencil drawings and extensive colorful creations. Each drawing expresses the individuality of every cohort member and that’s what makes it great!  Encourage everyone to let go and just have fun!

Participants are confused about the Story Statements. Is it OK if we don’t do this activity?2020-11-10T11:43:56-05:00

Many are confused by the Story Statements. You can see a completed story statement in the Tips section of this Resource Center. Feel free to use this sample, share it with the cohort or start your own story statement. Once the participants have a chance to see a completed story statement, they are anxious to try their own. Completing the Story Statements is a process of self discovery and expression. It is a tool that allows the cohort to learn about each other in a different way, and to make deeper connections over similar interests.

A participant doesn’t have a workbook. What do we do?2020-11-12T10:23:28-05:00

Sorry to hear that. Materials are ordered by the hosting member organization, either shipped to the organization or direct to participants. If a participant registered at the last minute, the workbook may not arrive before Session 1. We can help by providing a virtual workbook link for Session 1. Contact [email protected]  if you need this resource.

This cohort is really interested in costs. Can we move session material around and do the marketing material later?2020-11-10T11:56:20-05:00

It’s great to hear you have an enthusiastic group! The Core curriculum is organized to follow the sequence of the CO.STARTERS canvas. For instance, the message section of the canvas is influenced by the solution, benefits, and advantages. These are influenced by the problem, alternative and customer, going all the way back to Session 2 content. Because of the relationship between the sections of the canvas and how content builds upon each prior session, the content is best delivered in the exact numbered order. 

Our community has a strong restaurant scene for “foodies”.  We want to offer specific context for restaurants. Is there a way to do this? Can I delete some content?2020-11-12T14:51:22-05:00

We love hearing when communities complement our program and make it more relevant for your starters. With the Core 2020 version, we’ve made it even easier for you to do so.

In your Facilitator workbook, look for the two-circling-arrows symbol in the side column for facilitators notes. (see page 1.12 in the Core 202). It looks like a recycle symbol. This designates a section that can be assigned as fieldwork and easily be swapped out with other content without interrupting the flow of other important concepts. Feel free to add content that is important to your cohort e.g. in this case, maybe food and beverage metrics.

Our group is asking a lot of questions about marketing. Is it OK if we skip ahead to that session and come back to this other material later?2020-11-10T12:04:15-05:00

The CO.STARTERS programs follow the CO.STARTERS canvas. Each session leads into the next session and future sessions build on material and concepts covered during the prior weeks.  For these reasons, the best experience happens when the course is delivered in the order it was designed.

There is so much material to cover. How do I know what to focus on?2020-11-10T12:08:12-05:00

No worries, there are some guides in your facilitator workbook that will help you. In the side margin where you find the facilitator notes in blue, look for the following symbols: a + sign (See page 1.6 Core 2020 workbook), tells you that this is an important section and should not be skipped. The two-circling-arrows symbol (See page 1.12 Core 2020 workbook) tells you that this section can be swapped out for other content, skipped over, or assigned as field work.

I can’t seem to find the email templates I need to send to the cohort. Can I download them somewhere?2020-11-10T13:17:11-05:00

Yes, in addition to the email templates, we have other resources that may be helpful to you, such as samples of completed worksheets. Resources  can be accessed here.

I’m used to facilitating CO.STARTERS in person. What are some tips for doing it virtually?2020-10-13T13:24:59-04:00

More and more people today are familiar with Zoom and virtual meetings. However, don’t assume everyone in your cohort comes with the same level of knowledge or experience.  Spend some time the first week making sure everyone knows the basic skills. This will lessen their anxiety and open them up to an engaging virtual experience. This includes some tools that will help you facilitate, like the chat and breakout rooms.  Whenever possible, use the breakout rooms to allow for more intimate and smaller group discussions.  Direct participants to the chat to share thoughts, feelings and likes to conversations. 


What do I do if someone misses a session?2020-11-07T17:30:18-05:00

Facilitators are not expected to provide a make-up session to participants who missed. When a participant misses a session, direct them to review the workbook material and then offer to talk with them via phone or other, to answer any questions and review concepts they find difficult. If you are managing a large cohort, you can also invoke a buddy system early on. Have each participant choose a buddy whom they can rely on for updates and content if they miss a session.

What are my responsibilities as a facilitator?2020-11-10T12:13:21-05:00

The facilitator’s role is to guide participants through CO.STARTERS programs by asking the right questions, drawing on the knowledge in the room, and using available resources and connections in the community to point participants in the right direction. The facilitator works closely with the hosting organization’s staff to ensure a quality program that meets the needs of local entrepreneurs. Talk to your hosting organization for clarity but these are the general responsibilities of a facilitator:

  • Helps recruit participants to the cohort
  • Spend a minimum of an hour per week during the cohort reviewing the content and preparing for the session
  • Guide the group through the content for three hours each session (typically for ten sessions)
  • Shares community connections and resources with participants
  • Meets with participants one-on-one as needed or hold “office hours” 
  • Stay sharp by participating in CO.STARTERS continuing education workshops and/or monthly facilitator round tables
I heard some cohorts have two facilitators. Do we need two facilitators?2020-11-10T12:16:12-05:00

The number of facilitators needed to deliver an awesome cohort experience depends on a few things: 1) the experience of the facilitator(s), 2) the size and demand of the cohort and 3) the cohort schedule. An ideal cohort size will range from 8-15 participants. A skilled and experienced CO.STARTERS facilitator can handle this size group alone but having two facilitators allows for more diverse facilitation and style. It’s best to pair a new facilitator with an experienced facilitator, so they can share responsibilities and work together to support each other. If you are holding an intensive and having two sessions each week, we highly recommend two facilitators because of the quick pace and more limited time between sessions for review and preparation.

I freeze when someone asks me about something I don’t know. I look like I don’t know what I’m doing. Help?2020-11-07T17:34:09-05:00

It’s natural to feel this way the first time you are asked a question you can’t answer. It will happen and that’s OK. A facilitator is not expected to know everything. During Session 1, when the cohort sets guidelines, set your own guidelines as a facilitator. Let the cohort know, “I won’t have all the answers. Someone else in the room may have more knowledge than me and that’s what we expect. The group knows so much more collectively than any one of us alone. I promise if we don’t have the answer, I will help to locate a resource or someone who can help.”

How do I ask good questions to get the cohort engaged in discussion?2020-11-08T08:35:30-05:00

Good questions are those that do more than just ask about the content being discussed. Good questions focus on drawing out the experiences and knowledge of the group and how the material relates to them. For example, instead of asking “Did you complete your canvas?” ask instead, “What did you learn in completing your canvas?” Ask open ended questions that invite conversation. Take some time to prepare some good questions for each section. Some more examples are: “What experience have you had with …?”, “Did you use one of these loyalty programs with your customers and how did it go?”

I have trouble facilitating Session 7 & 8 on costing and finances. Help!2020-11-10T12:23:42-05:00

This is the only time that is helpful to really teach the bolded concepts. You don’t need to read every word of every section but make sure you explain the concepts of each section and follow the activities. It is important to use the case studies. If you follow the case studies verbatim and have the cohort answer the questions, we guarantee there will be some “aha” moments even if you are working with business owners with a little bit of experience.

To best facilitate the case studies, make sure you spend time preparing. As a facilitator you must know where every number comes from, so make notes in the sidebar. Many of the calculations in Session 8 are carried over from the costing exercises completed in the Session 7 case studies. As you move through the case studies with the cohort, challenge them to know where the numbers come from. Share with them the page number so they can go back and review on their own with confidence.

What is a respectful way to interrupt discussion that is not productive to the group?2020-11-07T18:53:08-05:00

Here’s one of the best tips we learned from another facilitator. Simply state “Excuse me, I see you two are passionate about this topic but as facilitator I have a responsibility to the group to make sure we get through the material. Can you both take the conversation to the chat or put it on the shelf for now so we can move onto the next activity?” This respectfully asks the participants to redirect so the group can get back to the main topic.

We have a great cohort that is very engaging but never gets through all the material. How can I keep everyone on track?2020-11-07T18:55:18-05:00

That depends. If you are having really positive discussion on a topic that gets to exploring something that is important to the cohort, then that’s time well spent. If conversations get commandeered by a couple of participants who are the only ones benefiting from the conversation, ask them to move the discussion to break time or into the chat if meeting virtually.

As the facilitator, it’s important to know what content is important to cover each week. Watch for the tips in your facilitator binder that will show you things you can skip or assign as field work if you find the session is running behind the suggested schedule.

I have a participant who knows it all and wants to answer every question. What do I do to make sure others have a chance?2020-10-13T12:38:20-04:00

The best way to work with participants that are excited to share is to find them a way to have an active role. Perhaps ask them to help manage the chat during a virtual delivery. Or if in person, make them responsible for the customer count chart. When opening up topics for discussion, address the person straight on, “John, I’m sure you have experience with this but first let’s hear from Sarah.”  This public statement acknowledges the person’s knowledge and many times, is enough to reduce their impulse to be the first to always answer or comment.

I have a participant in the cohort who is very quiet. Any tips on how to get them to participate?2020-11-07T18:59:17-05:00

One of the best things about each cohort is the diversity of participants in backgrounds, experience, skill sets and even personalities. We believe everyone brings value to the cohort experience. A facilitator’s responsibility is to consciously work to invite engagement from all participants even those who shy away from group participation. One of the most effective ways to get participation from a quiet person is to speak to them during a break and invite them to participate, perhaps by reading a case study. Giving them a heads up and/or invitation will help reduce the anxiety associated with participating and sharing when it’s unexpected.

What is the best way to instruct participants to share information in the cohort. I want to make sure each participant is suggesting based on experience or knowledge not telling others what to do?2020-11-08T08:38:43-05:00

This is a great question. From the very start during Session 1, offer some suggestions as to how to frame comments and suggestions to make them helpful to others. Here are some suggested ways to do that:

  • From my experience, __________.
  • I have found that ___________.
  • One Idea I will share is __________________.
  • I tried _____________ and _______________happened.
Someone in the cohort always asks about confidentiality. I don’t know what to say.2020-11-08T08:41:23-05:00

It is important for the cohort to have a level of trust with one another. However, some may be more sensitive to protecting their idea. We believe it is possible to share a wider perspective on the idea rather than the idea itself. For example, perhaps some one has developed a new energy drink that will disrupt the market. The person doesn’t have to share the secret ingredients that make it different; they can simply say they are in the beverage business. This provides enough context for discussion but not the specifics.

What are some examples of good community rules for the cohort?2020-11-08T08:43:16-05:00
  • Be transparent and accessible to others
  • Be open and honest
  • Be respectful
  • Ask questions
  • Provide answers to others
  • Provide encouragement
  • Honor confidentiality and each others privacy
  • Honor each other’s ideas
  • Provide suggestions not hard advice
I feel frustrated that sometimes the cohort doesn’t complete their fieldwork. Should I check everyone’s work at the beginning of each session?2020-11-07T19:04:32-05:00

As frustrating as it is, facilitators are not responsible for making sure each participant completes the fieldwork. Each week, discussions and activities are built upon material discussed in the prior session so it is important that participants do the fieldwork. The fieldwork allows them to apply what the new concepts to their own business or idea. If participants don’t complete the fieldwork and activities, they will begin to feel behind. Rather than checking their work, make sure you stress the importance of the fieldwork and bring to their attention the most important elements that need to be completed to stay on task.

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