Six key factors to consider during a facilitation experience.

When standing amidst of a group of people, especially as ‘the person in charge’, there are a lot of moving pieces that either aid or deter you from achieving your goal. Someone is sleeping, time is running, a participant has taken over the session with skewed questions and you still have to put a point across – just to paint a simple scenario. Facilitation is a thrilling experience when you learn what elements affect a group learning session and how you can use them to your benefit. This blogpost highlights six general factors around facilitation and how they can work for your greater good.

  1. Preparation – Understanding that you will be leading a group of people for a considerable amount of time, getting ready is something you might want to consider seriously. This can be done individually and as a group.
    Content -Do you have what you need to communicate ready? Ready here entails a few things; understanding the information you have to share and having it ready in whatever format you will use.
    Mental – Are you ready to facilitate? Internalizing your goal and purpose for the session greatly helps in getting yourself in a focused mental space that inspires confidence.
    Participants – Getting your participants ready is the best bonus you can give your session. You can begin by introducing yourself and the topic that shall be explored. Where possible, share the program or a snippet of what to expect from the session. This warms up and centers everyone to a common context.
    Grooming and setting – If you look good, you feel good. Dressing appropriately for a session contributes to the tone that is set for the participants. First impressions being lasting impressions, how you look is a very simple way of communicating at your disposal. Moreover, the environment in which you set up your session has to be useful to your goal. Pay attention to the neatness of the space being used, seating arrangement, noise and other factors.
  2. Program – Developing a program, even for the shortest sessions, ensures that there is a plan to work with and so everything flows smoothly. When coming up with one, give all activities a time frame, facilitator and outline the needed props or information. During facilitation, stick to the program as much as needed but be flexible enough to accommodate changes. Where possible or appropriate, it is helpful to share the program with the participants for their on preparation.
  3. Time management – Time is a friend and foe to a facilitator depending on which side you find yourself when the clock is winding down. Having a timed program is the first step to effective time management. All factors constant, what is left is simply monitoring the clock from beginning to end of the session with necessary interjections to initiate the commencement or ending of activities. Where time is limited, prioritize activities and lessons according to what needs to be communicated and hat would be good to relay. Be proactively aware of activities that might take more or less time than allocated and have measures in place for those eventualities. Time management is a PRIMARY tool for facilitation. Starting and finishing on time entices participants to show up early next time and builds a good professional reputation for you.
  4. Energy – In facilitation, energy is considered as the mood of class or participants. It could be high ( there is a lot of chatter, laughter, excitement and other up-beat related elements) or low ( participants are a little or absolutely quite, little or no interaction and other mellow-like elements) or even measured on a scale. Often, creating a high energy environment encourages participants to open up and take part in learning. This can be achieved by using icebreakers, group activities and other techniques that get the participants sharing and engaging. However, high energy may not be needed for the whole session and that requires you to tone things down a notch. As such, maintaining optimum energy for the group and individuals requires your presence and attention.

    Bonus tip; You can maintain the session’s energy by maintaining your own energy. If anything, understand that your energy pours onto the participants inevitably. Conducting a session with a smile will encourage more smiles just as using a bored tone will inspire yawns and sleep. Keep track of your non verbal cues, vocal projection and emotions. Couple this with an awareness of the room and you will have better control of the ‘vibes’ in the session.
  5. Delivery – How you conduct facilitation directly influences the participants learning and general experience. The simplest question to always consider as guidance is; ‘ What is the objective or purpose of what I am doing? Is how I am going about it helping or deterring?’ Staying focused on ensuring the objectives are achieved is a good starting point. Other ways include being efficient with your non verbal communication, using props, presentations, illustrations, demonstrations, storytelling among other techniques that keep the participant engaged. Nailing a delivery is like winning a race – no matter how many times you do it well, the win still feels new.
  6. Debrief – Having executed the session, what follows is an evaluation of the session and your performance as a team and individually. This is the perfect opportunity to give and receive feedback, look at what went right and what went wrong, suggest areas of improvement and set action points for next time, if any.

From experience, being aware of all or even a few of the above elements of facilitation not only increases the chances of delivering a stellar experience but also guarantees a good time for you as a facilitator. If you are new to this and it all feels too overwhelming, do not feel any pressure. You can pick one of the six elements every other time you are going to facilitate. Once comfortable, you can combine two or more as you progress to a level where you can juggle all the balls like a maestro.

All the best in your next facilitation experience and I sincerely hope that this helps.
Of the six above, what factor do you think is most important to consider? Leave a comment down below.

By Emmanuel Marumbu Misiati
Trainer, Facilitator and Consultant

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