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close this bookCreative Training - A User's Guide (IIRR, 1998)
close this folderBasic facilitation skills
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View the document10 handy tips



Facilitation skills are a basic requirement for a trainer to ensure active participation and meaningful exchanges during trainings or workshops.

Who is a Facilitator?

A facilitator:

· Ensures the effective flow of communication within a group so that the participants can share information and arrive at decisions.

· Poses problems and encourages group analysis.

· Provokes people to think critically and motivates them towards action.

· Does not change or ignore any decisions reached by the participants through consensus.

· Is sensitive, both to the verbal and non-verbal communications that occur in the group.

· Is sensitive to the feelings, attitudes, culture, interests and any hidden agenda that may be present in a group.


To resolve conflict, a facilitator should be able to sense the ADI, where

A is for Agreement
D is for Disagreement
I is for Irrelevance


Agreements should be explored, disagreements respected and any irrelevances identified so that the focus will be on reaching an agreement. Exploring Ds can also be explored to widen the A.

A facilitator should be like a sponge

An effective way of learning facilitation skills is through observing how effective facilitators handle a group in a certain activity. A good facilitator is like a sponge. They are never content with the skills and knowledge they have, and are aware that their capacity for learning is endless.

In keeping with this sponge image, effective facilitators learn from everything. In each course they conduct, they gain new insights and apply these to the next course based on their understanding.


When observing effective facilitators, take note of the following questions:

· What are the facilitators' styles of facilitation?
· How effective are these styles?
· How do they handle their participants?
· How do the participants respond to them?
· What are their strengths and weaknesses?

There are no exact formulas for effective facilitation. More important than having the capacity to liven up the group is to be able to provide a structure within which the group can discuss the agenda in a productive manner.

10 handy tips

1. Grasp firmly

Have a good grip over the subject matter being tackled. As a facilitator, you should determine the direction and flow of the discussion. Always be prepared. Have a contingency plan up your sleeve, e.g., in cases where your invited guest speakers do not turn up, have a plan B.


2. Be open

Encourage an atmosphere conducive to learning and sharing of ideas and where everyone feels welcome and important. Facilitation is like building a team where everyone has something to share and learn. A facilitator should be open and sincere.


3. Watch for the point

By encouraging others to share and participate, the range of discussion may expand and deepen. Without a good grasp of the subject, the discussion may get watered-down and lose track. You should see the various points, the pros and cons, the "what ifs" and other considerations. In the end, you should be able to summarize the discussion.


4. Know your limits

Know your own limitations and those of your participants. Have an idea of what is achievable and practical and what is not.


5. Learn how to count

Be aware of how many participants are responding, how many are sleepy, how frequently they leave the hall and how many are no longer listening. This can help you decide whether it is time to change or adjust the discussion.


6. Watch your wrist

Effective management of time is a skill and an attitude you should possess. Time is subjective. A too tight or rigid timetable would make a discussion seem like a military drill. On the other hand, too lax and liberal in handling the session would give the discussion the feel of a drinking party!


7. Have an artist's touch

Creative approaches and techniques encourage participation. Remember, you do not have to be skilled in theater, drawing, etc. Sometimes, providing crayons to participants and encouraging them to express their answers through simple sketches is enough to ensure participation. As a facilitator, you are an artist of compassion and if you are really committed to motivating the community to change, you are also an artist of passion.


8. Learn the traffic signals

As an effective facilitator, you must know when to stop, wait a while and go. You should be able to stop, look and listen throughout the discussion. Remember a polite traffic enforcer is well liked by the public.


9. Learn how to salute (learn how to respect and appreciate)

Remember to learn respect and the ability to recognize everybody's contributions. Practise humility; as a facilitator you do not have the solutions, they come from the participants.


10. Know your left and right (recognize your strong and weak points)

After every seminar, meeting or training, you should assess or evaluate. Whether in a formal or informal setting, quantitative or qualitative, oral or written, feedback should be gathered. In doing this, a facilitator is able to tell what parts of the training were successful. There is no perfect score in facilitation. There is always room for improvement.


There is no best way in facilitation, but blending and using these handy tips could help you emerge as a good facilitator.