The role of a facilitator encompasses many abilities not limited to presentation, training, project management and people skills. This is a very dynamic role and sometimes requires you to improvise on the go. To make things easier for groups, some of the core roles of a facilitator include:
To make things easier for groups, some of the core qualities of a good facilitator include:
As a facilitator, you need to create an inclusive environment so that all participants are on equal ground. Think of clever ways to make everyone in the group involved so that, in the end, they all buy in and own the process.
To maintain a neutral stance, you must learn to understand when to ask questions, when to give voice to those that need it and when the group is digressing or diving deep too soon. Your objective as a facilitator is to hold a group on predetermined guidelines without expecting a specific outcome.
Create a session with structures and activities that appeal to different personality types and people of all skill levels. The goal should be to articulate a shared vision while maximizing the commitment and engagement of everyone in the group. Everyone needs to feel that they are making a meaningful contribution to the end goal.
As mentioned earlier, good listening skills are essential for any excellent facilitator. To open up communication during your sessions, you need to master the art of effective and active listening. This means listening to participants without thinking about your next response or action, while at the same time encouraging them to keep talking using basic language cues.
Whether facilitating a simple meeting or a big event, in the back of your mind, always remember what the outcome should be and how to help the group reach it. Structure helps you go along the process smoothly while involving everyone and remaining objective. Without structure, you will often sway away from the agenda and finish the session without addressing all the items planned.
You need to have the capacity to provoke new insights and welcome them without taking sides. To achieve this, you will first need to establish the ground rules by, for example, allowing participants equal time to speak and respecting everyone's contribution.
Then get things flowing by asking questions, helping participants build on ideas, and keeping up the momentum by intervening when there is a need. Other practical facilitation skills include probing, summarizing, giving positive reinforcement, and the ability to bridge and refer back to help connect ideas.
Being proactive means taking the initiative to plan and prepare ahead to ensure a smooth session. You should use your previous experience and mistakes to improve the next facilitation session. Also, being proactive equips you to tailor the facilitation session to meet the needs of a group rather than using a generalized approach.
Even after planning, things may not always go as expected. If you stay rigid, it will be difficult for you to adapt to the new circumstances and still carry through your session successfully. For example, if new agendas come up, will you still be able to address them, or will you neglect them? Flexibility allows you to innovate solutions to challenges as you go so that the end objective is still realized no matter what.
When you are connected to the group you are facilitating, you will be fully present for whatever comes up during the session. Developing this ability takes skill and practice. You must first be confident and grounded in yourself and your abilities as a facilitator. You will be able to read the room and react appropriately on a human level.
No matter how good it is, a session has to come to an end. Therefore, you need to plan appropriately how you intend to cover all the session agendas within the available time limit. Be firm with how much time you allow participants, and know when to call back the team to the agenda if they start to deviate.
Good facilitators must have the skills necessary to relate to their audience with empathy and assertiveness. This ensures using the right words and tone to communicate effectively. It also considers social rules and roles to ensure inclusivity and prevent the chances of offending anyone.
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