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Connection-Focused Facilitation: Insights From ATD’s Core4


Wed Sep 06 2023

Connection-Focused Facilitation: Insights From ATD’s Core4

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to attend ATD’s Core4 conference in Arlington, Virginia. Core4 is a unique conference that brings together more than 300 talent development professionals and explores the four foundations of talent development: instructional design, training delivery and facilitation, measurement and evaluation, and learning technologies.

I sat down with Cornelius Dowdell, managing partner, The Best Workplace and senior consultant for leadership development at Florida Blue, to discuss his session, New Agile Facilitation Skills to Nurture. During our conversation, I was eager to learn more about agile facilitation skills of the future, how facilitators can find their authentic facilitation styles, and how to keep audiences connected and engaged in training.


Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your session at Core4 this year?

A: Yes. In my session, we’re diving into the skills that define agile facilitation in the future. It’s all about developing and identifying the core skills needed as a facilitator, but it’s also about understanding and developing self-awareness. Self-awareness paves the way for active listening and allows you to tap into your own personal experiences. Drawing on your own insights and collective experiences creates an opportunity for vulnerability that kindles engagement—an essential aspect of any successful facilitation.

Q: What’s your favorite icebreaker activity or energizer to kick off training?

A: I prefer dialogue and conversation. When you’re bringing everyone into an environment, you want them to connect, but you don’t have a lot of time, so the best way to engage with your participants is to use open-ended questions. Start by asking your participants what or how questions, which will lead to an organic conversation. Afterward, when you come back together as a group, your participants will feel connected to one another. They have a foundation they can build upon because they’ve built relationships with each other, which makes it easier to move into content.

Q: How can talent development professionals find their authentic facilitation style?

A: I’m going to go back to leveraging behavior assessments. Authenticity begins with understanding personal communication patterns, engagement dynamics, and the art of influence. As a leader in this field, I emphasize the role of influence, a skill that transcends contexts. All of this begins with the cornerstone of self-awareness.

Q: What is one tip you can share with facilitators to keep audiences engaged?

A: It all lies in embracing vulnerability. Vulnerability is not just in the classroom but extended to our external experiences. Your experiences truly make you unique. When you embrace vulnerability and share your personal stories, even the challenging ones, you build a connection. You’re able to influence others, and you give participants permission to do the same. This allows for deeper engagement and sharing of experiences that has the power to change lives.

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