A Warm Face in Facilitation

One of my favorite #facilitation activities which I created years ago is the “Warm Face.” Recently, I used this activity with two organizations; Wood Buffalo Regional Library and ElderCare Edmonton. Each group was developing a strategic plan.

The Warm Face is a wonderful opening conversation. 😀

  1. I typically start with participants in a circle with paper and colorful markers in the middle.
  2. I ask them to think of a Warm Face, that is, a person, who represents the reason they do the work they do in their organization. The Warm Face is a specific individual, not a blend of many. It’s a person that they will think about during the discussions and when making decisions.
  3. I invite them to draw their warm face on the paper. I ask them to draw their face within a two-minute timeframe. This helps them use the individual that comes immediately to their thoughts.
  4. Then, I ask them to share with a partner for a few minutes.
  5. Back in the large circle, I invite anybody who wishes to share their face. Typically, everyone does.

The stories are heartwarming and range from clients to customers to co-workers to community members to family and friends. I post the faces on a wall where they are easily visible throughout the session.

Why does the Warm Face activity work?

😊 It immediately puts people into a specific place and time with an individual who is meaningful in some way to them. They experience the memory of the senses from the encounter: What do they see? Hear? Touch? Smell? Taste? The topic under discussion becomes “real” and has an impact on people. The abstractness of the topic disappears.

✍🏽 Asking participants to draw often results in a few groans! However, most individuals immediately start since drawing a face is simple. People can make a circle and put eyes, nose, mouth, and hair on the face. Drawing helps communicate your thoughts to others; not just visually but by giving you time to better process them. Drawing a warm face is a subtle way of encouraging creativity during the remainder of the session.

💓 The stories of the Warm Face bring an emotional response from speaking and hearing them. They bring joy and pathos. These emotions can be carried throughout the session.

🙆🏽‍♀️ The Warm Face encourages vulnerability as people often share their relationship with their warm face person.

The Warm Face activity works within most settings and organizations; non-profit, corporate, and government. It is effective for sessions ranging from one hour to several days. I have used it for:


I also use the Warm Face activity at various times throughout a session. I will ask participants to think about how an action or decision may impact their warm face person.

I use it as a closing conversation by inviting each person to bring the Warm Face picture into the closing circle and share how the work they did during the session will help the individual who is their warm face.

Contact me if you want to talk about ways to use the Warm Face activity.

A Warm Face in Facilitation