It is important to understand your audience before facilitating a workshop, and to understand and acknowledge participants’ skills and knowledge during training sessions. Facilitators who do not acknowledge and use participant’s skills and knowledge may create a power play in the workshops, with participants and the facilitator trying to ‘one-up’ each other in their level of knowledge and experience. One of the easiest ways to solve this issue is to include an ‘about you’ section in the training registration form. Questions can include experience in the specific field, current position and organisation, main issues that the participant is facing and what they would like to gain from the training. The facilitator can then draw on that knowledge to involve those with knowledge and skills to play a teaching or coaching role in the training.
A facilitator is likely to be monotonous when s/he feels inexperienced or unsure. A facilitator may also become monotonous when they have been facilitating for a number of years. It is important to note that although the content may remain the same, the audience changes every time. Having a cookie-cutter approach to every training session lessens the excitement in your own role, which is reflected in your training style. If you feel, or get feedback that you are becoming monotonous, redesign the training to include new activities which take you out of your comfort zone deliberately.
Some facilitators think of themselves as ‘gurus’, loving the sound of their own voice. Participants quickly tire of one person talking, whether it’s the facilitator or another participant. It’s important to allow every participant to share their experiences and knowledge in the session, encouraging engagement as a precursor to learning.
In business skills training, adults attend training sessions for two main reasons: to gain new knowledge and to network with people. If a facilitator controls the session too much, many participants become reluctant to interact with each other. Allow numerous group activities with time set aside in the beginning for participants to get to know each other on their own terms. Don’t fall for the trap of going around the room with a “Who am I?” activity. Most of what is said is forgotten, as no-one in the room has developed an interest in other people yet to pay too much attention. It is better to build activities that force participants to get to know each other as part of the learning. Spread the engagement process over the length of the training by having participants work in teams and mixing team membership, unless a strong team ethos is required for activities to work.
Training audiences pick up very quickly that a facilitator is insincere. Insincerity may stem from a disbelief in the material being facilitated or from a disbelief in the goal of the project of which the training is a part or from the facilitator themselves becoming jaded with the content. Additionally, it may come from facilitators who are only there to push people through training, with little regard for their ability to transfer that learning back to the workplace.
Although not said aloud, participants in a training session are very aware of how the facilitator presents themselves. Physical appearance has a significant impact on participants’ perceptions of the facilitator and the training session. Ensure that you present well and look great. They will also pick up on lack of attention to detail and have a negative perception of the overall training when multiple small things do not work well.
This is the opposite of control. If a facilitator allows too much free rein in the session, you will get some happy participants but those who have been left out will be dissatisfied with the quality of training. It is also likely that the training programme will fall behind your intended schedule and you may be forced to rush other content.