Monday, January 18, 2010

Experience-based Facilitation: A brief look under the hood

The facilitator

A few reminders...

  • Talk less, ask simple intelligent thought-provoking questions, listen, REPEAT
  • Remember, its not about the facilitator, its about the participants
  • Worry less about agenda and more about flow and enhancing the fun factor
  • Don’t: take yourself too seriously or have an “attitude”
  • Seek to reach the heart rather than the mind by avoiding “death by PowerPoint” instead, learn to be a good story teller
  • Speak well and confidently which improves credibility and believability
  • Make eye contact which increases trust
  • Dress better than the participants giving a visual of leadership
  • Admit when you are wrong or do not know.

A good facilitator is much like a good sports referee. If he/she is doing a good job, the group learns to self-facilitate, plays by the agreed upon rules and relies less on the facilitator.

Workshop design

Design the workshop with simple, heirloom and neo learning opportunities based upon what was learned from assessment and interviews. Remember, its the participant’s agenda, not the facilitator’s.

Prime the pump! Allow participants to begin the workshop in his/her “comfort zone...dress, comfort food, music all become the welcoming entrance to changing behaviors and learning.

Minimize distractions not only in choosing the location and surroundings but make sure ALL turn off cell phones and electronic devices! Use a check list to make sure you have everything you need as well as in good working order. Use the cabinet maker’s mantra, "measure twice, cut once!”


Always be looking for opportunities to build trust:

  • in oneself
  • in and with others
  • in the vision of the workshop including its desired outcomes
  • in the content and processes
All of these trust issues are foundational and paramount.

Practice repetition

Design the workshop recognizing the primacy effect and recency effect. In the beginning of the workshop, participants’ energy level is high, listening is more attentive and they tend to remember the first few things. The recency effect says we tend to remember more of what’s at the end of a workshop. Repetition can reinforce as well as make the message(s) more believable. While research has found that people tend to eventually believe things they’ve been told many times, experiencing things creates deep belief!

Choose wisely!

Choose your experience-based learning initiatives wisely and thoughtfully! If your experience-base learning initiatives are strong and convincing, participants will connect the dots, discover personal meaning and make behavior changes. If the initiatives are weak or not convincing enough, there’s little hope of discovery or change. At the core of good facilitation, make the components of the workshop personally meaningful to them. This boosts the participants chance of remembering the learning opportunities. Always end the workshop with a challenge to the participants to reflect on what will be taken away, what one thing they would like to change, define the possible roadblocks, identify support and set a timeline for change.

The willing, the vacationers, the prisoners

Every workshop is made up of the willing, the vacationers (who enjoy a day away from the office and still get paid) and the prisoners (who see this workshop as a waste and adding stress to mounting work back at the office). The prisoners have major phantom rules, blinders and fun house mirrors at work in their minds. The facilitator's goal should be to move the prisoners to become vacationers!

Social Loafing

The bigger the group, the greater chance of social loafing. Social loafing is when participants check out of an initiative and let the more engaged do the “lifting.” It can be a sign that participants are not committed and accountable. It can also be a sign that the facilitator chose the wrong initiative for the group size. No matter, if social loafing occurs, it can be a great debrief topic. Challenge the group how all team members can be inspired to avoid or prevent social loafing and increase productivity.

Continuously Ask

Finally, the facilitator needs to ask, “How am I doing?” Seek feedback from participants and from fellow facilitators. When critiqued, say, “Tell me more!” Don’t become defensive.

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