Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Facilitator Behaviors and Strategies

Starting out as a facilitator was brutal for me because I was flying by the seat of my pants, learning every step of the way. My days of being a facilitator started early when I chose the path of becoming an elementary & middle school teacher. Talk about cutting your teeth on a piece of reality -- my eyes were wide open.  I was fortunate to meet a couple of fantastic trainers and facilitators who took me under their wings and mentored me to become a strong, confident presenter that I am today.

Many presenters or facilitators study their materials or presentation over and over again. That never worked for me. It's more important to learn your materials enough so that you feel comfortable presenting them to anyone.  The key is connecting with your audience. In every training, I make a point to getting a better understanding of why participants are attending the training and what information they want to gather.  As I am listing to their responses, I am mentally redesigning my presentation in my mind to meet their needs. No presentation should be exactly the same. The way you present the information to each audience is significant to your success.

Here are some of the BEST things a facilitator can do:

  • Carefully assess the needs of your audience
  • Help people understand why they are there
  • Ascertain the knowledge level of your audience
  • Inquire why they chose this training or workshop
  • Probe sensitively into people's feelings
  • Create an open and trusting atmosphere
  • Stay flexible and ready to change directions at a moment's notice
  • See yourself as servant of group needs, providing information
  • Speak in simple, and direct language
  • Display energy and appropriate levels of assertiveness
  • Be a good listener and paraphrase what has been discussed
  • End every session with clear steps or an accurate summary
  • Treat everyone as equals without showing favoritism to anyone
Here are some of the WORSE things a facilitator can do:
  • Be oblivious to what the group thinks or needs
  • Never check the concerns of your group members
  • Not hearing or listening to what is being said by participants
  • Not watching the faces or body language of your audience
  • Take poor flip chart notes or change the meaning
  • Lose track of key ideas
  • Try to be the center of attention
  • Get defensive or argumentative
  • Get into personality battles
  • Put down people
  • Allow the discussion to get badly sidetracked or ramble without proper closure
  • Not knowing when to stop or talking too much about yourself
  • Insensitivity to cultural diversity issues
  • Use  inappropriate humor
These are just a few of the tips that I have picked up over the years. The most important part of being a trainer or a facilitator is to have FUN, and remember to smile often. It makes a big difference. One of my mentors taught me that, " Amateurs practice until they get it right; Professionals practice until it can't go wrong".