Whether leading a meeting, training on new skills, running a workshop, or guiding a team, I’ve found this acronym/reminder for facilitation incredibly useful as a base structure for most any curriculum. (Note: I use training, meeting, and teaching somewhat interchangeably for ease during this write-up). While the A.C.A.C. approach cannot guarantee success with your material, it will likely up your awareness to better understand questions from participants, intuit lapses in their understanding, and become nimble in the moment to better serve those you are teaching. So what does A.C.A.C. stand for?
The first ‘A’ ~ Assess: The facilitator makes an assessment of their own energy, mood, and thought process, then the surroundings and physical environment of the meeting that might impact results, and then how the participants are showing up. This assessment phase directs the facilitator to open the training in the right way for that particular group in that particular setting on that particular day. And this ‘assess’ mindset keeps you present, tuned-in, and aware of others throughout the training.
The first ‘C’ ~ Connect: Now with a solid understanding and adjustment to the energy of the room and group, the facilitator can build rapport and connection with the participants through those informal moments at the beginning of most trainings. Connecting in some way with attendees is critical. And in some ways, it’s why ice-breakers (which I don’t love) are sometimes effective.
The second ‘A’ ~ Ask: The facilitator’s role then moves into the content of the training and the extraordinary task of maintaining participant engagement. The latter can be accomplished through questions driven by your inquisitive mind and curiosity about what participants are thinking, wondering, and understanding. Being asked powerful questions motivates participants to deepen their processing of the content. Regardless of how informational-heavy your training and material might be, questions are a powerful tool to energize learning.
The second ‘C’ ~ Conclude: For the seasoned trainer, this might seem obvious, but it is amazing how often workshops and meetings just end, without any moment of summary, wrap-up, or reflection. In this approach to concluding, the facilitator directs participants to evaluate their own learning and connection to the material through an actionable take-away.
A.C.A.C. At a Glance
Assess: 1) Yourself, where you’re at presently, what you’re thinking about, your mood, 2) the Physical landscape, the location, the room, positioning of chairs, tables, doorways, and 3) how Introductions and greetings are made, the mood of attendees
Connect: Build connection through inquiry: “What’s happening?” “What are you working on today?” “How have things been going?” Use ice-breakers carefully, but as method for connecting.
Ask: Seek to deepen the thought process of participants and their understanding of any material through questions.
Conclude: Seek to connect the dots to relevant parts of the discussion, “This is what I heard today … (take away message).” Invite participants to state their own learning/take-away (an action item, something tangible), even as straight forward as having them fill in this statement: I learned ____________ today.
The A.C.A.C tool has been adapted from my 15 years of facilitating, teaching, running meetings, trainings and speaking. It arose from my own self-assessment of what I was doing, what was working well, and what was no longer serving me, both during individual trainings and throughout my career. Maybe it isn’t the model for you, or maybe it needs some adaptation. Awesome. Further connect with that self-awareness and explore what else might be possible by asking yourself that very powerful question: how can I be an even better facilitator?