In the top-100-managers conference mentioned earlier, we ran the conference with 9 other small-group facilitators. Each had to facilitate a 3-hour discussion for 9-10 people. Some are experienced facilitators but some are new to facilitation. The relatively inexperienced ones were in fact executive assistants for our senior executives. They are young and smart – Just that facilitation is new to them. As I was responsible for the overall design and facilitation, I got to find ways to make the arrangement work. On reflection, there are a few key learning points:
Prepare a Facilitation Guide – I spent a night to write up a 10-page facilitation guide for my amateur facilitators. In the beginning, writing a guide for a one-off event did not sound like a good investment to me. It however turned out to be very helpful. During the few days before the event and on the event day, I became very busy as one can imagine. It was however the same time when the small-group facilitators really pay good attention to the work. Quite last-minute indeed. I did not really have time to assist their preparation during that time. Fortunately, the guide became a wonderful self-study material for them.
And in writing such guide, it is important to provide actual instructions or questions which the facilitators can use directly word by word. It is especially essential to be literal what the facilitators should do / say in the first 10 minutes. It is the beginning which they need most guidance.
Partner them up – I have 9 small-group facilitators. Each 3 of them had the same topics to facilitate. I asked them to run through with those of the same topic how they will facilitate their session. Grouping them for preparation turned out to be rather effective. They could really test out understanding and tried to say out the instructions or questions.
Fool-proof Process – Together with another experienced facilitator, we designed a simple process of Fact/Feeling/Option/Action. 1 filp-chart for 1 step …. In addition, I designed in the first 2 steps that the facilitators only asked for non-verbal response. This helped warm up the group and thus gradually build up the facilitators’ confidence.
Stay Calm – Things never go totally as planned on the day of an event. However, the lead facilitator could not appear to be disturbed by any hiccup as the small-group facilitators look upon him / her. Fortunately, I have not done too much…..
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