Facilitating workshops, both face to face and online, is a complex task, requiring excellent communication skills and the ability to adapt delivery style to the attendees.
More and more, companies are bringing training in-house, both to save money and to maximise the connection with learners through familiarity.
In this blog, Mark Herbert (C-me Delivery Lead) shares some of his top tips for facilitation to help optimise your time, present engaging workshops and deliver your very best, on a consistent basis.
No two people are the same, which is equally applicable to facilitators. Remembering that you have a unique voice and finding your natural style is an important way to facilitate authentically and consistently.
Co-facilitation is a great idea to consider. It can be really enjoyable running sessions with colleagues who have different delivery preferences or goals to your own. Learning how to complement each other well will bring out the best outcome in a co-facilitation partnership.
There is nothing worse for your participants than when the tech is faulty. If this happens at the beginning, it can get your session off to a bad start.
There can be occasions where this causes you stress and panic, the feeling of being out of control. You may feel a slight rise in blood pressure or the sweat building on the inside of your shirt, as you're keen to fix things without causing unnecessary disruption!
A virtual workshop, set up from a home office, can help set us up for success. When we have the ability to set up in a way that works well for us, and in a way we are familiar with, it limits the risk of any technical failures.
Delivering face to face can be more challenging, as we are dealing with external, client systems that we are unfamiliar with. Experience can tell us that this rarely works smoothly.
It can be a good idea to arrive at your delivery location early, 45 minutes before the session if possible. This might sound like too much time, but it ensures that any tech issues can be ironed out and there is time to relax, ensuring you bring your very best self to the facilitation.
The more familiar you are with your content, the more questions you are used to receiving and the more rehearsed your key phrases are, the clearer your facilitation will be.
In gaining experience in delivering your content, you will become a good facilitator and enjoy the freedom of delivery without the need for any notes. The advantage of this is that it allows maximum energy to be given to connecting with the participants.
With pre-planned content, there is always a temptation to deliver off the shelf slides and what's already been practised, rather than being flexible to the specific needs of the client.
To ensure this is avoided, it is always worth writing out a summary of what your client aims to get from the session and then flick through your material to ensure every slide is driving towards that end goal.
There is a real discipline in leaving material out and many times a workshop can be successful by leaving sections out, rather than adding everything in. As the old saying suggests less is, so often, more.
Some of the great benefits of delivering C-me Colour Profiling material to small groups are the quality of the content, the clear instructions, the rich application it offers, and that it's a tool that really helps maximise delivery technique.
Below is an example of a Team Wheel used to represent the behavioural preferences of a team.
Whilst this diagram will be used to discuss team dynamics, it can also be used effectively before a session starts, to reflect on the most appropriate delivery approach. Is your planned delivery style, tone, pace appropriate for the group?
It is beneficial to make a note on whether you need to bring more energy and pace, or a deliberately reflective approach to suit and benefit the group you are working with. This ability to flex your facilitation approach in a different way allows the same content to be delivered in a way that is relevant and engaging for all attendees.
Even with the most conscientious prep, there will still be the need to adjust your facilitation technique, and even your content, throughout a session. The best facilitators have a profound skill of reading the room, understanding their audience and applying flexibility.
There are two situations that spring to mind where flexibility is key: workshop breaks and content reduction.
When energy levels are dropping, be flexible in your break out times. Would it be worth bringing a break forward to ensure thinking and reflection remains optimal? Similarly, if a break is planned but a discussion is in full swing, it could be helpful for your group to delay the break slightly and leave room for the ongoing engagement. Just be sure to come back to the break later on!
Sometimes content reduction is necessary, for example, if you have misjudged your timings or if the group have got fixated on an earlier discussion. Flexibility is a skill that is exerted further when the facilitator is able to cut some material in action and deliver the remaining content at an appropriate pace, rather than rushing to get through the slides and compromise quality.
Remember, the participants don't know what's on your slides so you don't need to tell them you have cut bits!
The more experienced you become at group facilitation, the more you learn to ask great questions in order to initiate great responses amongst the group.
The goals of a good facilitator are to encourage your group to converse amongst and about themselves, rather than to dominate and shape the conversation yourself.
Delivering 100% face to face or 100% remote workshops, where every participant has their own screen, is the optimal facilitation set-up.
Hybrid delivery involves some people being present with you in the room and others dialling in remotely. This delivery set-up is far harder and not ideal; if there is poor sound quality within a large room, it can become a distraction for online listeners and it is far harder to keep everyone together in conversations.
If you are unable to deliver face to face, be sure to encourage your group to attend individually. This means they join from their own room and on their own screen. You can then make the best use of your virtual facilitation skills and the breakout rooms for smaller discussion groups.
Quality facilitation is developed through experience, it is an art that you master rather than a science you learn, and something to keep working hard at.
This is perhaps especially true when you become more experienced and think there are no more skills to be learnt, as this can give rise to sloppiness.
All of the above can seem like hard work, and good facilitation requires a lot of effort in its preparation and delivery!
Never forget, however, the privilege the facilitator has of leading others towards new growth and development.
The ripples of a well-led session will continue long after the session is finished, even if you don't get to see it!
Think about what top tips would you add to the above?