I am enjoying the process of deepening my facilitation skills as I train others early in 2018. And as we go through several bits of material and experiences, I update my own thinking on key topics.  Here are some of my notes that might be useful to your own facilitation.

1) Facilitation Styles: Your approach to the way you respond to participants contributions to ice breakers and introductions, as well as group reflections is a perfect example of where you can show-up the way you want to as a facilitator. Do you respond to everyone? Do you need to respond to everyone? Do you ask a follow-up question, or connect their response to another participants? Do you point out themes or connect ideas? Do you always have your own story or example to share or do you let participants stories just be? There is no right answer at this point in the game, only awareness in how you show up and how you want to show up during these conversations.

2) Examples, examples, examples. One of the best ways to prep new material as a trainer is to think of examples that illustrate/demonstrate/represent the content you are sharing. These are great for your own understanding of the material, and are an excellent way to further explain what the material means. It is better to have too many examples to refer to ready to go, than too few. Always be ready to tell a story.

3) Deflection. Sometimes participants respond or provide an example with an answer that’s “just not right.” This is a difficult and challenging moment as a facilitator because you don’t want to isolate the participant or make them feel bad. But for the sake of the training and for others’ learning, you do need to address the challenge. Think of transitional sentences that can help you move on: “In some situations, that might be the case, but for the purposes of this training, that’s not the approach we’re going to use. What if we tried ________ instead …”  “Everyone will have a different approach to this topic, but what we’re focused on today is ______.”  “That approach could work in some cases, yet I think what we’re really looking for today is _______.”

4) Journaling time is not the time to check out as a facilitator. Instead, this can be a good opportunity to walk around and connect with participants 1:1. Ask them how they’re doing with their answer, or what they’re thinking about. Or what questions they have about the material. If you feel like you’re being distracting or “looking over their shoulder,” move on, but it might also be the time a participant gains clarity about something they were unwilling to ask in a big group, or might spur a near-by participants’ thinking.

5) Break out groups and pair shares are not the time to check out as a facilitator either. You don’t necessarily want to interject during these small group conversations (though asking a clarifying or prompting question can be helpful to promote discussion in quieter groups), but instead you want to LISTEN. Listen for themes, common ideas, different perspectives, and/or trouble areas (places where people might be struggling as a whole to grasp onto a concept). You can then work to SYNTHESIZE, (another important role of a facilitator) when you bring the group back together. “Hey, when we’re talking just then, I heard this ______ and it made me think of _____.” Or, “I heard several groups talking about _______” Or, “This question or challenge seemed to come up in every group, have we thought about ____.” Or “I heard this idea, this idea, and that idea, here’s how I think all of this relates and what it means for this subject.”

Facilitation has a lot of components to consider and these are just a few recent thoughts from my own journal.  If you have some ideas or questions, send us an email!