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Good Facilitator Skills │ Everything you need to know!

To have good facilitator skills and lead Workshops and training events is an interesting prospect. However, mastering the art of facilitation takes some years of practice to attain. The purpose of this article is to simplify all you need to know to excel as a facilitator.

Who is a Facilitator?

To facilitate is “to make easier” or “help bring about.” Thus, facilitation in the workshop context is to help smoothly manage the flow and learning activities of a group. The facilitator guides the activities and attempts to maximize member’s time and energy by keeping the event and discussions on track – in terms of time, topic and learning outcomes. By taking a group through a process that produces a specific outcome (learning, decision-making, problem-solving, etc.), facilitation generally encourages all members to participate in some way, shape or form. By recognizing and utilizing the unique and valuable contributions of each member, an effective facilitator increases the collective value of the entire group.  By mediating the group process, the facilitator plays an active and critical role in ensuring that a group taps deeply into its own knowledge. Good facilitators should be able to:

  • value people and their ideas
  • think quickly and logically
  • communicate excellently

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12 Fun Ideas to Spice Up Your Workshop and Engage Your Audience

The Role of a Facilitator

The role of a facilitator is to help the group move through their intended agenda, reach learning targets while carrying along all participants. The facilitator helps ensure that these learning targets are in harmony with the pre-identified learning objectives. The facilitator is therefore expected to:

Plan each day’s activities

  • Decide the agenda for each day
  • Gather resource materials that support topic
  • Arrange games, techniques, stories appropriate for your target group
  • Prepare learning aids. Improvise if necessary…
  • Set up your materials in the classroom ahead of the participants’ arrival
  • Meet with other co-facilitators to preview the day’s activities and split up the workload.
  • Ensure that the classroom has easy access to conveniences, water supply, adequate ventilation, and good lighting. Ensure that girls and women in your class have access to the nearest provisions.

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Set Up Learning Activities

  • Be at hand to welcome participants to the class
  • Be sure that all participants understand why they are at the training
  • Access knowledge/skills level of participants
  • State the purpose of the group session,
  • review the agenda and ground rules, and
  • remind everyone how much time is available for discussions. Everyone should be encouraged to participate actively while observing the laid down ground rules.


Gathering information

  • Make sure everyone has a chance to participate in activity,
  • remember that some participants are shy so may need encouragement
  • Use probing questions
  • Invite the experts to speak up
  • Call on individuals in the group
  • Invite debate
  • Try to keep discussions focused on the topic and get to the root cause of any issues,
  • ask for more details in order to gain clarity if needed
  • Key questions include: How do we understand …? What have we tried before that works? What would happen next? Is that what you mean?

Organizing information

  • group common thoughts and ideas together
  • avoid repetition, but don’t lose the details
  • Don’t lose good ideas that are off-topic – record these for use in the future
  • Key questions include: Are these ideas similar? What would happen if we tried these ideas together? Can anyone add anything to these ideas?

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Connecting ideas

  • Rephrase ideas so they relate to the issue we are discussing
  • Combine ideas to build solutions
  • Key questions include: How can we use that idea to help with our issue? What can we do today that will make a difference? Can we see some solutions or next steps emerging from our ideas?

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Wrapping Up a Discussion Session

  • Summarize key learnings,
  • Make sure everyone is clear on what has been decided and what will happen next.
  • If there are assignments to be completed after the class, be sure that everyone knows who is responsible for this and when it will be turned in.
  • Remind everyone how important it is to involve ourselves in these activities.
  • Don’t forget to thank everyone for coming, and ensure everyone is aware of the next agenda on the program of events if any.

Dealing with unproductive behavior

Difficult behavior is often unintentional or occurs as the result of an emotionally charged situation. You can expect a lot of such ‘charged’ moments in a human rights education class. You might be dealing with inattentive members who are engaging in side-bar conversations, taking calls or indiscreetly dealing with e-mail.  You might also be dealing with personal agendas or disrespectful behavior.  Progressive intervention will most often assist you in dealing with behavior that does not help the group achieve its meeting goals or objectives.  The following tips might be useful:

  • Use gentle and appropriate humor for redirection
  • Restate the ground rules directly
  • Direct your questions to the individual for clarification
  • Seek help from the group
  • Address the issue at a break or offline


Remember to

  • make eye contact,
  • smile,
  • be enthusiastic
  • avoid “closed” body language such as crossing your arms or turning your back on your audience
  • listen (listening is a key part of successful facilitation)

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12 Fun Ideas to Spice Up Your Workshop and Engage Your Audience

It is becoming quite the standard to incorporate fun ideas to spice up your workshop and engage your audience. In the past and depending on where you come from, teaching is hardly associated with fun. But all that has changed already. In this article, you will learn twelve (12) ways you can make this work.

And in case you are worried that you have not received and professional training to enable you to engage your students effectively, then this article is just for you. These fun ideas so are easy to master and implement, anyone can use them. As a matter of fact, you can start using them right now.


1. Provide Useful Information

In every workshop, learning needs are different for each participant. Learn about each participant and what their expectations are. It’s alright to ask each person to introduce themselves and reveal what they want out of the workshop. That way, you can give the most useful information first. It’s often a torment to listen to a rambling facilitator and wait for them to finally make a noteworthy point. Boring right? Get straight to the point. If people start getting value from the first minute, they will want to stay through to the end. Give as much information as you possibly can. It is becoming quite the routine to ask workshop participants to state their expectations. Veer away from the usual, make it fun and interactive.


2. Lay back a bit and let the participants lead some sessions

Attendees at a workshop are called participants when they should actually be called an audience. Most times, they listen in and take notes. Find activities that the participants can lead. These could be icebreakers, games, reading activities, flip charting or even sharing their knowledge or expertise about the subject matter. The greater the opportunities that participants have to play active roles in the workshop, the more genuine interest they will have. It might also help to engage the least excited persons in the group in such micro-leadership roles and watch them convert to true participants.

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3. Do not prepare a presentation

Workshops that have loads of Powerpoint presentations bore people to death. It doesn’t matter how interactive the presentation is if it is too long. People learn in different ways. So, a mix of many facilitation techniques will be quite helpful. Combine pictures, videos, diagrams, words, music, logic, or physical activities. Be sure to have your program planned out in advance. That way, there isn’t too much of a particular activity. If the activities were more participatory, it would provide more fun and engage more persons than if you just spoke to a presentation. A technique commonly used is flip charting whereby a different person takes responsibility for notetaking. Flipchart pages could be hung around the venue to keep key points in the minds of participants.


4. Rejig the Venue layout

The choice of venue for a workshop is one of the most important preparatory tasks to perform. A great venue has to be well-lighted and ventilated. It has to have space for sitting, standing and playing. Access to conveniences must be provided for all genders as well as nonbinary persons. Create sitting arrangements that differ from the conventional classroom layout. Ditch the arrangement in rows and try more circular arrangements to encourage flow. You can also alter the arrangement of the venue for different sessions.


5. Learning Aids are a must

Learning resources come in various shapes and sizes. To meet the needs of your audience, bring along as many learning aids as possible. These could be materials that help you make your lessons clear. Learning aids could be charts, pictorials, storyboards or just regular materials used in day to day activities but which support your lessons.

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6. Play games

Games are a must as they can serve dual purpose. First to entertain. Second, to educate.  There are numerous resources that can be employed for gaming both online and offline. A personal favorite is Kahoot which entertains and at the same time helps your workshop participants to learn. Puzzles or riddles, crosswords, memory games, ordering tasks — all are great ways to keep your attendees engaged and on-task. For added drama, impose a time limit.


7. Tell a story 

Whatever you’re teaching, try to make it relatable to everyday life by using real examples, case studies, and creative metaphors. People will sit still for hours watching a movie — why not steal some cinematic tricks?

Stories, in fact, are central to the way memory works. We search for narrative not just in media, but in everyday life. If you can find a way to integrate the information in your course into an overarching narrative, attendees will be more engaged and have something to look forward to during breaks.


8. Play Music

Play music for the duration of your class. It can really help stimulate your audience and set the right mood for the event. Music keeps your attendees from getting distracted and also adds the right amount of emotion you need during your talk. You could play a peppy number to let your attendees feel pumped and mellow it down to soothing tunes when they are busy with their tasks and discussions.


9. Take breaks in-between

Human Beings are unable to stay focused for long periods of time. To push beyond a person’s attention span is counterproductive. This implies that the longer your participants sit in class, the less they actually learn. This phenomenon is called the Law of Diminishing Returns. This is an economic law but its principles apply to most human endeavors including learning.

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It is a good practice to make each session to last a maximum of two hours. If it taking place over the course of a day, schedule in plenty of short breaks. Such breaks should present opportunities for participants to get up, walk around, and grab a cup of coffee.


10. Allow some chaos

Situations which I consider chaotic might include conflicts/arguments based on individual perceptions about the subject matter. Others are chorus responses, spontaneous questions, and interruptions. If this is well managed, participants engage freely and are glad to share what they know and are open to learn from others.


11. Make individualized relatable next steps

After all the planned activities and the workshop has come to an end. As disheartening as this may seem, it will be difficult for participants to make any good use of the knowledge learned except it is relatable to their daily lives. This is very important because, towards the end of the day, everyone is drained and tired. without a clearcut sequence of activities planned out from the time they leave that venue, the lessons might just remain lessons and nothing more. Guide the group to figure out and plan what their next steps will be and how to follow it through.


12. Provide recognition and reward

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Everyone loves that little cherry on a cake or ice cream scoop. Recognitions and awards are not equivalent to the knowledge gained in a workshop. Yet many people would have the certificate and forfeit the learning if it were possible. It is your responsibility to ensure that your participants feel rewarded for the time they have spent with you. Give them that one final motivation and watch them leave the venue with big smiles on their faces. Be on hand to take pictures too.


Did you find any of these points useful? Are there other strategies you use for making your workshops more engaging and they aren’t covered here. Please share with us in the comment section.