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Facilitation Best Practices

.This week I had a discussion with a fellow training professional that afterwards, left me feeling very thankful our relationship was a casual one, in that we did not work together or for the same organization

The reason for this was his lack of understanding or appreciation for all of the work that went in to creating a training program. In this particular instance a 2-day instructor led course that he had facilitated and had been developed by his team, and that he spent an hour complaining about, saying…

” I really don’t care what they put on the slides….I do my own thing in class. Most of the time I am do not even understand the content….but as long as we play some games and I do a few fun ice breakers…we are good.”

This bothered me for many reasons, many of which I tried to get across to peer.

Think about the hours, days, weeks and months a team of designers and programmers put in to creating slick pre-course materials and in- class activities that really showcased training and eLearning opportunities. Now imagine handing over the finished product to a facilitator who, based on his lack of understanding for the material was not part of the design, and watching in horror as your team’s months of hard work goes up in smoke while this same facilitator spends far too much time on ridiculous “ice-breakers” or fumbles through the agenda as opposed to presenting the material as designed. In these situations, do we blame the facilitator or the person that put them there in the first place?

In my opinion there is no easy answer to that question as there are too many variables to consider, however I do know this…when a facilitator claims to have years of experience teaching a plethora of subjects my expectation is they should be very good at their job, and thus assume the project leader would feel the same way.

I also know that in situations where the designer is also the facilitator OR the facilitator has instructional design experience, the chances of a successful program are increased drastically. The reasons for this are straight forward, if not obvious. A trainer’s familiarity with the materials, concepts, key objectives, timing, etc. are a given when a facilitator trains a program he/she designed, and as such there are far fewer opportunities for failure. Also, in situations where a facilitator did not design the program they are training however does have legitimate instructional design experience none the less, they are much more likely to focus on the key program objectives and consequently offer a greater opportunity for success. To this end I would offer a final tip, that being if you are looking to hire an instructional designer, ensure you select an individual that has experience in facilitation. The same recommendation would work in reverse. If you want to hire a professional facilitator, find one that has instructional design experience.

With regards to my own facilitation techniques I by no means have run a perfect session each and every time. Having said that I do however pride myself on ensuring I cover the key objectives, pay attention to my students and do my best to send everyone home happy and hopefully, with a felling that attending class was a worthwhile experience.

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