The definition of facilitate is to “make an action or process easy or easier”. Much of what I do can be described as facilitation. When I am in front of a classroom of adults, chairing a meeting, coaching one on one, or guiding a discussion; my main purpose is to facilitate the free flow of ideas to help people learn or reach conclusions for themselves. I add my own experiences as appropriate, but the prime purpose is to allow people to develop and structure their own thoughts.

A good facilitator makes it look easy, but there is preparation before the event and a lot of analysis and adapting on the fly to ensure the session runs as planned. I have achieved my goal if you, the participant, don’t notice the process – you should be able to enjoy the discussion and see the results at the end.

  1. Preparation is key – what do you want to achieve, who will be there, what is the best way to gather ideas, to keep discussion flowing and keep to time?
  2. Be adaptable – (Have a few tricks up your sleeve) On the day, things might not go to plan. Participants may have a different understanding of the topic that what you anticipated, bigger questions may be uncovered, time may get way – be prepared to adjust and bend the day as you go to still achieve what you intended to achieve.
  3. The day is not about you – the facilitator is there to keep the session flowing, to create a safe space for discussion and to help participants find clarity. There may be times when your wisdom and experience is useful, however you are not there to teach or to add your own thoughts to the mix.
  4. Remain calm – to a certain extent, the session will go where it is meant to go. That doesn’t mean you give up on the process you planned, but if things don’t go to plan it is important that the facilitator calmly assesses the situation and brings it back to where it should be.

Facilitation is a process that requires concentration and thinking on your feet – it takes a lot of energy. But is is also fun to see an idea take shape, the participants find clarity and discussion flow freely. Effective facilitation is the key to achieving a worthwhile result.