Whereas a professional trainer can have knowledge that participants do not have coming into a workshop, a facilitator may not have the same knowledge or expertise in the particular subject matter that the participants do. How do you as a facilitator handle this situation?
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The role of the facilitator is to provide an experience in sharing, discussion, learning, and openness for participants. As a result, although we may use the terms trainer and facilitator interchangeably at times, there are tangible differences.
Can you think of some possible differences?
Identifying Applicable Situations
A facilitator uses their knowledge of group processes and dynamics when planning their meeting. They might make use of their skills to run a meeting or a workshop where participants are considering problems, addressing pressing business needs, or planning for the future. Just like in skills training, a facilitator needs to have an agenda, specific objectives, and a plan for how the meeting will go.
Facilitating requires the following basic skills:
- Make sure everyone participates
- Make sure everyone understands the problem(s) being addressed and is focused on them
- Protect participants from any kind of backlash or abuse by creating and maintaining a safe environment
Provide regular check-ins and follow-up within the session. When people get involved in a facilitated group, they need to know whether they are still on track and that they are making progress. In addition, they need frequent interaction with the facilitator to inject energy, keep them on track, and also to allow some of what they do to sink in.
One way to bring it all together is to check in with the group and record their progress on a large flip chart or whiteboard at the front of the room. This will facilitate guided discussion, mind-mapping, and exploration. Keeping the group focused and together in this way also helps to foster the cohesiveness of the group.