Delivering professional development is not an easy task, because you are responsible not only for the productivity of the participants in the session, but also for directing people to achieve the result, taking into account the characteristics of their personalities, work styles, etc. The good news is that as a facilitator, you can work on a specific set of skills that will help you improve your efficiency.
1. Make sure to know who will be attending the session
Asking information about the participants in a session is an important skill for an effective facilitator. Try to get as much information as possible about what kind of people will participate in the session. The more you learn about the group, the individual characteristics of individuals and the dynamics of their work, the better you will be able to plan the session and give the participants an opportunity to gain a positive experience from this type of work.
2. Create an atmosphere of inclusiveness
During the planning of the session and during the work, you should look for ways to ensure that the participants are on an equal footing. It is important to find opportunities to participate in key activities for each member of the group. This is how people “buy” and “own” the process. And for this it is important that everyone in the workspace is included.
3. Make the rules effectively
Another task of the facilitator is to set the tone in behaviour, interaction with each other in the process of work. Think about the rules you can create yourself, or ask the group about behaviours and communication that will help the participants get the most out of their work. It is important that all group members agree to follow the same rules.
4. Give clear instructions
A large part of the professional development process is asking people to complete tasks – and this is much easier if the facilitator has clear instructions.
Clear instructions make it easier for the people to understand what you want to end up with.
5. Make sure to listen all the time.
In an effective learning lesson, all participants walk at approximately the same speed and speak the same language. To achieve this, you need to make sure that everyone has a chance to be heard and hear each other. And here, the developed skills of active listening by the facilitator himself and the emphasis on these skills among the participants of the session help.
6. Always have a plan
The facilitator’s task is to lead people through the process to make it easier for them to achieve the goal. The structure and basic idea of the direction in which to go will help you with this. Nevertheless, life shows that the session goes very rarely according to the plan! You need a plan, a backup plan, and a few more plans in case the first two don’t work or something goes wrong. If you have prepared a few Compliant Learning resources and options, you can be more flexible and change the plan based on the needs.
7. Control the time
Any group activity has a time limit – there are only a few hours a day. This means that the facilitator needs to plan how much time to allocate for each of the lesson components, as well as how long it will take to achieve the set goals.
8. The energy meter
This is not about chakras and flow. It’s just a part of life: sometimes a group of people enter a room and transmit energy – it can be fatigue, lethargy, excitement, excessive activity, stupidity, negativity, shyness, nervousness – whatever. Sometimes you need to correlate the activities you are planning with the energy of the group, and sometimes you need to find ways to increase the enthusiasm of the group and increase the degree of positive emotions.
9. You are flexible and adapt on the fly
Part of the facilitator’s job is to track the progress and process of the group. Think about how much you need to take breaks. Periodically ask how the process is going and if a break is needed. Perhaps the break was planned for a certain time, but the group needs it earlier. May it be so. You take care of the group and help them do their best.
10. Neutral facilitator or facilitator with an agenda
It may happen that a facilitator is hired to act as a neutral third party in a group process. In this case, your role is to focus on the process, the subject of the session, and the experience of the group as a whole. The facilitator is non-judgmental about the content the group creates and focuses on how the group gets new ideas about the purpose of the session.
Developing facilitator skills takes practice. The good news is that all of these skills can be learned. The main thing is to try! Each group is different, and as you work on your skills, you will notice what works best for different teams and different companies.