Becoming a facilitator takes time and commitment. You need to work hard to become at ease with different situations that occur during the delivery of learning events. But the good news is that it doesn’t take years of training to become a facilitator! You start by internalizing this role. Reading about it and getting training and practice helps you start evolving your own approach to facilitation.
Once you start acting as a facilitator, some approaches work better for you, while others make you question. This has also happened to me. At the beginning I thought that I knew something about facilitation. However, when I started facilitating real events, I realized how much more there is for me to learn and improve. It is similar to other professions, where learning lasts all your life. You try out new approaches and build knowledge over and over.
In my opinion, there is one thing that every facilitator should do. No matter how you choose to involve your audience or do the opening, no matter if you facilitate yourself or just co-facilitate, the number one priority should be taking care of group dynamics.
Sometimes the atmosphere evolves without additional intervention and the whole learning process is constructive. People spontaneously engage in discussions and activities, and monitoring sessions show high participant satisfaction. In such cases, I keep observing and act as a referee during a match. I like this synonym because a referee is somebody that is usually not visible – when everything goes smoothly, you don’t actually see that the referee is there.
In other cases, more engagement is needed. Of course, we always prepare a detailed agenda with a clear design of engaging and interactive learning activities. I also always try to make an engaging opening and encourage participants to speak up right from the beginning, which is crucial for the success of the event. Still, sometimes the learning process doesn’t turn out as it should. What the facilitator can do then is to interrupt the process and discuss with the faculty how to change the dynamics; or, the facilitator can intervene directly to put the dynamics back on the constructive track. Usually, a combination of these or talking to the participants works the best.
Last but not least, the facilitator should be genuinely interested in the learning process, as this is something that he/she can control. As a person that helps connect the dots – participants with the faculty, content with objectives, and learning process with the expected results – the facilitator is central to ensuring a meaningful learning experience.
Note: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the CEF.