This set of suggested strategies is focused on building (a) your stature and confidence as facilitator; and (b) building the confidence of others in you as facilitator. Here are some things you can try:
(1) Model good facilitation practice from your earliest conversations with clients, building confidence from the start. Prepare for your conversations with clients, considering how you will facilitate the conversation(s) with them. Be clear on the objectives for your preparatory conversations, as well as the outputs (e.g. physical products such as a design brief for the event) and outcomes (such as a decision regarding the future collaboration). Consider how much time is available and how you will use that time together. In some cases you will be having this preparatory conversation with a client group, so you may also like to think about activities you can use to efficiently gather the information needed, as well as to build their confidence in your competencies.
(2) Consider asking someone else (in authority) – the meeting Chair or host – to introduce you and your role as facilitator, vesting you with authority guiding the process.
(3) “Contracting” (agreeing what you will do and will not do) is key. In the preparatory stages, you will have already had a contracting conversation with your client. Upon opening the event, re-contract with participants regarding your role as facilitator. Have a conversation with participants to explain the role you have been invited to assume, what you will bring and what you expect from participants.
(4) In order to help you with contracting with the group, prepare checklists for yourself and/or a script to be sure that you cover the key points you would like to make. You may also like to put key points on a flipchart sheet that remains in the room as a reference document. In the process, acknowledge any technical / content knowledge you have. At the same time, explain that as a facilitator your role is to manage the process and not the content, and that (even if you have technical expertize) you will defer technical questions addressed to you to others in the room.
(5) Highlight the content expertize of the participants (you may like to ask a few questions to the whole group to show this – such as asking them to add up all the hours of professional experience with the topic at their tables and then totalling this in plenary, or asking them the number of hours of engagement with the group project / initiative so far, and/or doing a quick mapping exercise to show representation of different stakeholders among participants.) Honouring the expertize of participants and differentiating your role as a facilitator in this way will reassure them that you will continue to do this throughout your time together.
(6) Share with participants select elements of the process design (at appropriate moments) and why these have been chosen, ensuring them that expert time and thinking has gone into this. In doing so, explain why the process design element is in the interest of the group. For example, if you have planned some small group work, provide the rationale for doing so (perhaps giving some figures about number of minutes each person can participate if each makes a statement in plenary) and how it is the responsible way of honouring the experience everyone can bring and maximizing the knowledge sharing and learning during your time together… after all time is money :)
(7) Build your confidence by practicing in safe environments
(8) Don’t give yourself too much to say in the opening moments. Plan a methodology or an exercise that gets participant voices in the room whilst you relax into the role. (For most facilitators, it’s the first few sentences that are the hardest…)
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