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What’s in It for Me?

As a facilitator you have succeeded if any of your participants answer the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) question with this answer: “Exactly what I needed.”

I’ve never met an owner of a service business who isn’t driven by the need to help solve their clients’ problems. Some need to front a group as a chairperson, a trainer, a facilitator or a presenter, and just don’t know how to facilitate great outcomes for their audience.

Whether you are teaching cashflow magic, health for business owners, how to write a book, social media savviness, leadership skills, or even facilitation itself, your success is measured by each participant being able to say that they got exactly what they needed from the time they spent with you. But to get this right takes some skill.

There are some tricks that make every session worthwhile for every participant, and some of these skills are invisible.

Think about the best sessions you have attended: they just work. It’s not about the facilitator being memorable, it’s about them keeping everyone on track of the goals with an elegant balance of awareness about themselves, about the audience and about the content.

It’s a bit like the old saying ‘I would have written less if I’d had more time’. A facilitator should be thinking ‘I said less and was, therefore, more effective’.

You need to use your presence and your leadership to help every member of the group meet the expectations they have of the session.

Time is precious, and time wasted can never be found again. So, when you are given the honour and privilege to lead a group towards outcomes they have requested, it is essential to ensure that you make every minute count, that every person has their needs met, and that every expressed expectation is either addressed or put aside to be dealt with at another time in a documented ‘parking lot’.

How hard can it be?

Pretty hard. It is an art form: balancing what people want to contribute with the time available, drawing out enough engagement but not so much that the goals can’t be met, and giving people enough support to feel included but with boundaries.

Great facilitators blend their own personality with the skills they have learnt, never trying to be someone they are not, and always balancing their actions between what is needed by the audience, the content, and themselves. They need to stay firmly in the middle. I base all my training at the Facilitation Academy on this balanced Facilitator’s Triangle.

10 facilitation mistakes to avoid:

1. Don’t talk after you’ve given instruction. Allow people to act on your instructions. If they need help, go over to the person asking the question and answer it, but don’t interrupt everyone else.

2. Don’t allow a few people to dominate the room. Right at the start invite those who find it harder to speak to try and those who speak easily, to hold back a little.

3. Don’t give extra time to part of the discussion if that time will mean you can’t reach the agreed goals. Plan for that part of the conversation to be continued afterwards instead.

4. Don’t be governed by PowerPoint. Instead, use it to back your story.

5. Don’t patronise your audience. Check their level at the start of any session. There’s nothing worse than being talked down to.

6. Don’t ignore the needs of people with disabilities, or with various styles of learning (kinetic, visual, auditory). Accommodate everyone in the room.

7. Don’t give more than one instruction at a time.

8. Don’t go over time. Managing your time well instils trust.

9. Don’t say: “We all … ” anything. Don’t assume that people in the audience have the same experience as you. They might not.

10. Don’t allow difficult behaviour to go unchecked.

The simplest way to keep you and your participants engaged is to say at the beginning:

When you leave the room, I want you to look back over your shoulder and say, “Now that was worthwhile”.

Invite them to be active participants in meeting their own goals and be sure to keep batting everything towards reaching the goals of the session.

Every person should leave knowing that what was in it for them was just what they needed. And you can make that happen, with their help. It takes a deft touch, and an awareness of what is needed is the first step.

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