As a facilitator, the greatest gift you can give yourself is to attend a workshop as a participant only. I am always struck by what I learn, not just about the workshop topic, but about what works (and doesn’t work) from a facilitator. I recently attended a session put on by a new facilitator. Here are the first five of my Top 10 Facilitation Basics I was reminded of in that three hour session.

  1. Provide context and a road map. The old advice applies here: Tell me what you’re going to tell me, then tell me, then tell me what you told me. Help tie in the seemingly unrelated bits to my reason for being in the room. Help me answer the question of WIIFM  (What’s in it for ME?).
  2. Provide structure for each exercise. When there is a journaling exercise or group share activity, I find it immensely helpful to have a structure. Participants will branch out from there as they become more comfortable. I enjoy a good mad lib format or a group activity like Seven Sentence Story to help get the ball rolling.
  3. Take responsibility when the group is veering off course. It is so easy to “correct” participants by telling them that they are doing it wrong. Instead, validate what they have done and provide a redirect: “great perspective, now what if we had to consider it this way?” If you believe you’ve really been unclear, thank the participants for their enthusiasm and the opportunity to clarify your intention. Then clarify the guidelines.
  4. Pick limited models and exercises and go deeper. It can be really exciting to share your knowledge as a facilitator, especially if you have just learned new processes and theories that you’re giving a whirl. For the benefit of the participants, recall the old adage that “less is more.” And always make sure that the models and exercises you do share will connect back to the big picture (#1). WIIFM?
  5. Use manipulatives, pictures, and toys to help people get out of their heads. There are many theories around learning styles that demonstrate the value of kinesthetic learning. Getting “hands on” can spark ideas or even just calm the learning jitters of participants who can apply their energy and creativity to something concrete. Listening and talking and sitting – it’s all very hard work. Give ’em a break.

Curious about the final five? Check back for my follow-up post.

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