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.
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
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.
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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
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
- make eye contact,
- 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)
Michael is a Project Manager with years of experience in nonprofits and managing startups. He shares what he has learnt over time with like-minded persons. He gives classes to persons who plan a future in the nonprofits sector or as entrepreneurs.