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Talent Development Glossary Terms
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What Is Facilitation?

Facilitation is the art of moving a group of people through meetings, planning sessions, or training, and successfully achieving a specific goal. The art of facilitation is a necessary and evolving skill, and an important component of every professional’s business acumen. Facilitation skills are essential today for all professionals dealing with any kind of work group, including management, boards of directors, top leadership, task forces, committees, and project teams.

Introduction to Facilitation

The art of facilitation is a necessary and evolving skill, and an important component of every professional’s business acumen. Facilitation skills are essential today for all professionals dealing with any kind of work group, including management, boards of directors, top leadership, task forces, committees, and project teams. Facilitation involves processes and expertise that help groups to function effectively, including how they talk to each other, identify and solve problems, make decisions, and handle conflict. The facilitator’s role is to guide thegroup to work together more efficiently—to create synergy, generate new ideas, and gain consensus and agreement—and guide them to a specific outcome. Facilitators point participants in the right direction, make suggestions, take steps to enhance the experience for the participants, and give suggestions—but do not do the work for the group.



You don’t have to be a professional facilitator to be asked to facilitate a group. Facilitators come from many backgrounds and may hold various roles within or external to an organization, such as leaders, managers, consultants, coaches, trainers, and formal facilitators. Anyone can appoint or hire a facilitator, for any type of meeting.

What Are the Differences Among Facilitators, Trainers, and Presenters?

Facilitators assist teams in their meetings to improve how the team works together and comes to decisions, ensuring every voice is heard and conflicts are successfully resolved. In comparison, a presenter provides information to the group, typically in a one-sided delivery to an audience; for example, a presenter may report annual sales numbers or new HR policies to a group of employees. Trainers are also responsible for imparting information to their audience, but their goal is for the group to comprehend and retain the material, so training sessions are usually more interactive than a presentation.

Trainers and presenters are also typically considered authorities on their subjects, but facilitators don’t need to have any special knowledge about the subject of the meeting. Effective facilitators also include the following:
· Focus on the group dynamics and processes.
· Be accountable to the group; therefore, the facilitator must earn their trust.

It’s a different role from that of a presenter or trainer, where there is a clear and obvious separation between the students and the instructor, and in which the presenter is positioned as an expert. In that situation, the learners are merely passive recipients of the knowledge. In contrast, facilitators operate as impartial peers to participants; they must earn trust not through subject matter expertise, but their ability to successfully guide discussion and consensus while getting down into things alongside participants.

The Roles of Trainers, Presenters & Facilitators

Trainers and Presenters

Facilitators


Deliver information, Assist with group discussions

Assist with group discussions

Share their knowledge, Allow members of the group to share

Allow members of the group to share knowledge with one another

Are subject matter experts

Are not subject matters themselves, but support a group of participants who are

Focus on individual learning

Focus on group objectives

Facilitator Skills

Facilitators can come from any background and a variety of experience levels. The best facilitators, however, demonstrate the following skills:

Listening—a facilitator needs to listen actively and hear what every team member is saying.

Questioning—a facilitator should be skilled in asking questions. Good questions are open ended and stimulate discussion.

Problem solving—a facilitator should be skilled at applying group problem-solving techniques, including:

defining the problem

determining the cause

considering a range of solutions

weighing advantages and disadvantages of solutions

selecting the best solution

implementing the solution

evaluating the results.

Resolving conflict—a facilitator should recognize that conflict among group members is natural and, as long as it’s expressed politely, should not suppress it. Indeed, it should be expected and dealt with constructively.

Using a participative style—a facilitator should be able to encourage all team members to actively engage and contribute in meetings. This includes creating an atmosphere in which group members are willing to share their feelings and opinions. This does not mean the facilitator should offer opinions on the content of the meeting, however.

Accepting others—a facilitator should maintain an open mind and not criticize the ideas and suggestions of group members.

Empathizing—a facilitator should be able to “walk a mile in another’s shoes” to understand the team members’ feelings.

Leading—a facilitator must be able to keep participants focused and the discussion on target.

Additional Facilitation Resources

Publications

Browse our newest facilitation titles, collections, bestsellers, and limited-time only book bundles.

Facilitation Courses

Find the right facilitation offering for you.

Facilitation Events

Our instructional design conferences and workshops provide you with the education and peer-to-peer connections that empower you to be successful.

Training Delivery Resource Center

Classroom facilitators get the opportunity to engage with content that helps them become more effective, share information, connect with other industry peers, and much more.

Facilitation Videos & Podcasts

Webcasts, recordings from past ATD conference sessions and short, practical, how-to videos from peer practitioners and ATD subject matter experts on a variety of topic areas.

Facilitation Design Job Aids & Tools

Assessments, templates, maps and checklists that guide you through how to perform a variety of tasks.

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