This is exactly how I feel when I am in amazing workshops with great facilitators!
Great Facilitators (GFs) like everything great come in all shapes and sizes. They are talented, interested, happy people, with mostly soft and soothing voices, and they know how to get people to work without letting anyone feel worked out!
Over the last ten years, I have had the privilege of attending workshops that have given me beautiful moments to experience and cherish for life. These workshops were engaging because some GFs took great pains at understanding us, knowing what we are like and using some fascinating techniques to reach towards the goal of the workshop.
While there are numerous of them that need mention, 10 of these are as follows:
1. Great Facilitators (GFs) care to listen and with intent: Great facilitators can listen deeply and respond with empathy. They understand that each person has a need to be seen and heard, and therefore, they choose to give the participants their due space to express.
2. GFs understand the power of meaningful pauses: One of the most remarkable moments for me was when a GF asked us to pause after anyone had given a response. When participants (us) start throwing in answers one after the other, there is a possibility of the meaning is lost in the process. It also leads to many participants saying similar things repetitively, which may not add to the conversation. Just letting the answer or response seep in for a few seconds in our memory creates a vast difference in how we receive and process the answer and allows us (participants) to think if we want to say something or are just speaking for the sake of saying it. It was one of the Aha! moments of the workshop for me.
3. GFs invite us all into the circle: The circles are by far the most democratic way of sitting together to discuss important issues or learn new things. The first time I sat in a circle, I could feel the difference in my approach towards the session. I felt more involved and interested! In my experience sitting in circles not only allow the facilitators to be one with the group, but it also raises the possibility of the participants being equally active as there is no place to hide!
4. GFs support individuality: Participants’ opinions may or may not be aligned with that of the facilitators. GFs understand that. They not only receive different responses with respect but consider them in their work. If any such response can’t be worked out in the workshop space, they take it outside the workshop space and try to engage with it. This quality creates faith and trust in their work. As a participant, whenever I am wearing a red hat or taking a different route than others, it feels good when a GF cares to listen to it and answer it with patience. It has many times help me validate that my feelings/fears/ apprehensions are real and not only going in my head!
5. GFs are a pro at creating teams: I find this skill to be a hard one to master, but some GFs I know can develop common ground between absolute strangers and create a space for dialogue and teamwork. I like activities where the GFs slowly bring out parts of our reality like where we come from, what we want, what are our worlds like, what are our wishes through activities to engage us with each other. I feel that the facilitation is essentially important and interesting for the one reason that it focuses on who we are as people rather than what we do for living and GFs know how to focus on that!
6. GFs have a million tools at their disposal!: Yep! Not the ones above for sure. GFs know that people learn differently and therefore, they cater to all kinds of learners by carrying a truckload of activities in their bag. Whether it be visual, auditory, verbal, imagery, physical or any other, you name it, and they have it all. At one time, I was attending a super dull and lousy workshop; it was only the facilitator’s work and dedication that got me through it! I remember a particular documentary that he had shown us, not only did I learn a thing a two from the documentary, it taught me that excellent facilitation skills could bring meaning even in the most mundane of spaces!
7. GFs are honest and real: The most important and underrated quality, that is the crux of everything relevant and meaningful is honesty. GFs are super honest and real. They understand that people take time to change, and some changes take longer than others. They also know that no matter how amazing their skills and capabilities as facilitators are, they are simply what they are, facilitators. The agent of change is always the person who chooses to bring the change and therefore GFs know how much to try and where to let go! They also understand how much impact can a particular workshop can bring and where there will be a scope of improvement. These qualities make them Great Facilitators in the first place!
8. GFs know how to have fun!: Learning that happens through fun is the most memorable learning. In the ten years of being in workshops, the ones that I can recall most and have learnt from most are the ones where I had a blast of a time. I remember, the first time I was learning creative writing in a British Council classroom, or the time I was going around in my Spanish class asking simple phrases to people it was all fun and enabled me in many ways! Being knowledgeable in a subject and being an excellent facilitator are two very different skills. GFs know the trick of imparting that knowledge without being verbose, preachy or mundane!
9. GFs work with the group: The difference between the conventional teaching system and facilitation practice is that the traditional method is mostly blinded by the goal and forgets the process. Whereas the facilitation practice understands that the process is as equally important as the end goal. Therefore, GFs are good at gauging where the group is from moment to moment and also have the capacity to tweak the workshop design in accordance.
10. GFs are continually improving: That is another essential skill that goes without saying! If I meet a facilitator in a gap of a year or two and they haven’t changed anything in their style of grown more skills, then I can’t say they are in this for the long haul. GFs that I have been associated with for more extended periods have demonstrated how hard they work on their skill. Their workshops and their grown sensibilities speak for themselves.
A shout out to all the GREAT FACILITATORS that have encouraged me to think, ask meaningful questions, listen deeply, appreciate silence/pauses and speak from heart! Keep doing the great job that you do and spread your light for your years to come.