Facilitators Demo Day: Learning from Good Practice

When do you get the opportunity to watch and participate in the work of 10 different facilitators in one day? We did yesterday by hosting a Facilitators’ Demonstration and Learning Day (see previous blog post: Facilitators Demonstration Day – Bringing Together Supply and Demand).

We had professional facilitators coming from the Geneva area, neighbouring France, and even the UK. We also had a number of facilitators and trainers participate as observers. These practitioners joined 18 of our colleagues in this learning day.

Because it is unusual to get to see so many facilitators in a row, I couldn’t help noting down a number of good and interesting practices that I observed, and wanted to put them on the blog for sharing and future reference (not in any particular order, and obviously from my personal perspective):

  • Labelling: Get stickers or address labels with your name/company on them, and put them on your markers, cables and materials. Then they don’t get confused with those provided in the venue. And if other people help you clear up, they’ll be able to tell what’s what.
  • Branding: Two groups had printed large post-it notes that they used for brainstorming cards etc. with their company names on the bottom.
  • Signage: One team had a flipchart sized sign printed with their organization’s name/logo which they put up in the room.
  • Colour: I definitely noticed when teams used colour – things like markers (more than the standard red/green/blue/black), cards, ppts, and believe it or not, even what they wore. I was surprised how bright colours on people’s clothing positively affected my disposition to the task.
  • Job Aids: There seems to be a line between job aids that are too hand-done and “cottagy” and too slick and somehow “industrial”. I think a combination works well, perhaps hand written flip charts, and printed hand outs? Or something in between. Printed things seemed to tidy up tasks.
  • Table Settings: Home magazines put a lot of effort into giving people ideas of how to lay tables for special dinners. When this happens in a workshop setting, people notice and appreciate it (like an open box of new markers, post-its in the middle, a creativity toy, etc. nicely laid out in the middle of the table for the group). I once heard about a Disney creativity meeting set up, with a placemat for each person, drink, playdough, pens, etc.
  • Economizing Supplies: I appreciate it when people use a whole flipchart for notes as they speak, and not write one or two big words and then turn over the page. Maybe it is my environmental background. Actually, that drives me crazy.
  • Handwriting: I think that facilitators either do, or should, take courses in handwriting. It makes a huge difference when you see great handwriting on a flipchart. People can also practice writing legibly fast – there could be a competition on this at a Facilitators Convention. Of course this also goes for participants. One Facilitator yesterday said he used the “Heineken Rule” when asking participants to write on cards. If he couldn’t read it, they had to buy him a beer.
  • Letting People Read: If you use cards, I like it when facilitators ask people to write large enough on cards so that people can read them on their own from a distance. It saves time.
  • The Power of Nice: I think I am very sensitive to what I perceive as “nice” behaviour from the facilitator, that is genuinely caring for the participants, wanting to be helpful, guiding and supporting. I personally respond very well when I see that.
  • Innovation: It is great to see people innovating on current practice, a little surprise dynamic, way to organize a group, new rules for a familiar game, etc. That keeps it fresh.
  • Working Towards Congruence: It was interesting to see people demonsrate facilitation and then in a short debriefing bring out the methodology and rationale. I realised that it is very hard to talk about Facilitation. I guess this could also be called “Actions Speak Louder Than Words”, a principle that can be applied to nearly anything.

This was a full 8 hour day of on-your-feet activity, and at the same time presented great opportunity for observation. People came away with a great overview of approaches, styles and techniques and some excellent local contacts. Thanks to the generous spirit of exchange and learning, we had an incredibly rich experience with our Facilitators Demonstration and Learning Day.

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