The Art of Facilitation

Have you ever wondered what goes into the making of a fruitful workshop? Who has the most important role in it? Is it the content or the facilitation that stands out? The content definitely plays a crucial role in capturing the attention of the audience however it is the facilitator that gets the show going. The facilitator is the one responsible for making things possible for the entire group. Making the work of the group easier using collective intelligence as one of the important tools. A seasoned facilitator supports the group by empowering them to take up new and unexpected challenges. Therefore, allowing the group to work closely and achieve its objective. People come together to interact, communicate, debate and decide in the most positive and constructive methods. The facilitator sets the objective of the session. Guides the group using various tools and activities during the session. Does a follow-up wherever needed post the session.

Now let’s understand the difference between a presenter and a facilitator. A presenter is an expert who is the star of the session. Usually, conveys a message and has a specific goal with starting and end points. Also, uses various tools such as stories, videos and slides to deliver the key message. Speaks eighty percent of the time with rhetorical questions in place to make an impact. On the other hand, a facilitator makes sure that the group speaks most of the time. In order to achieve this, he uses tools such as activities and role plays. Allows the group to make their own experiences and learn from each other. He listens most of the time, asks questions and rephrases ideas in order to guide the group. Supports the group to get the best out of them.

There are various stages of facilitation. Starting with framing, the session should have a specific purpose. What are the participants trying to do and what is the expected outcome? Also, should have a specific theme and objective. The facilitator should provide a neutral and caring environment for the participants to experiment and learn. He should also prepare the flow and assign roles and responsibilities to his team members. The facilitator should clearly discuss the objective and agenda of the session with the participants at the beginning of the session. Also, should note down the expectation of the participant from the session.

During the session, all rules and regulations should be clearly explained so that participants can perform the activities without any trouble. A seasoned facilitator should listen to his audience and give them the opportunity to form rules if needed. He should also exude qualities like being impartial, participative and trustworthy. Ice breakers are very crucial in creating a relaxed environment where the audience can share ideas and participate more wholeheartedly. It encourages the participants to share ownership of the learning environment of the session, build rapport with others and foster a productive learning environment.

As the session proceeds the next stage is divergence. This is the stage where people differentiate between quality and quantity. The facilitator encourages the participants to come up with crazy ideas. However, he listens to each idea through the fine lens of being non-judgemental. Also, encourages the participants to use various tools such as six thinking hats, and 5W 1H while explaining their ideas. He creates a collaborative environment while adhering to the session timeline.

Once the participants start generating ideas the facilitator helps them with the sorting. Duplicates are removed, a logical grouping is done and can be grouped under similar themes. The facilitator helps the group to improve the ideas in group discussion and also understand its constraints. He makes sure that the group remains focussed on the goal and shares relevant tips whenever needed.

Finally, he asks the participants to come up with their action plans. Various tools such as six thinking hats, start-stop continue, and decision matrix can be used. Also, it is very crucial for a facilitator to seek the right feedback from the participants. It is a very powerful tool that helps him to enhance his facilitation skills and come up with new ideas as per the need of the group.



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