6 of 11: Suggested Facilitation Strategies – Working as a Facilitator With and Without Subject Matter Expertise

How can you have confidence in achieving the desired outcomes when you’re not a subject matter expert; and also when you ARE a subject matter expert (but your role is as facilitator)? Consider the following:

(1) Remember that it is better to know little about the subject matter but all about designing a great process to achieve the desired outcomes, than to know everything about the subject but little about process! Mastering the art of client briefing conversations and designing great, detailed agendas are key.  

(2) Remind yourself that facilitators do not need to be subject matter experts (and often are not!) What facilitators need to do is ask the right questions to the client (who may or may not be subject matter experts themselves).  It is paramount that you fully understand – and are sufficiently conversant in – the context of the meeting and what it hopes to achieve.  It is the role of the participants in the room to bring the required expertize.  Your role is to guide the process.

(3) If you are a subject matter expert, think about how you can contribute your expertize before entering the workshop room – both in bringing your expert knowledge to the agenda design process, and potentially through your contribution to other preparatory steps.  For example, contribute to a presentation or video to be screened in the session, or reply to a pre-session participant survey, the results from which are used to focus the conversations.  As facilitator – guiding the process – you contribute greatly to the shaping the direction in which the group thinks and progresses, especially through the questions you ask.  Consider how you can do this appropriately, respecting the trust placed in you as a neutral facilitator.

(4) Check-in with the group, as the meeting progresses.  If you feel happy with the energy and results, ask the group:  I feel good and happy about the progress so far, how about you?  If you feel frustrated and feel that they are too, sometimes it may helpful to acknowledge this and simply suggest taking a break whilst you have a rethink.  You may find it was just fatigue and that people come back refreshed and thinking more clearly with renewed energy and confidence in achieving the desired outcomes.

Related blog posts:
No Such Thing as a Pointless Question: The Impact of Simply Asking

Leveraging the Wisdom of Crowds in our Organization

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