On reflection, the last six months has provided many learning opportunities. The big one that sticks out to me is the transformation that I have had to make from being an experienced (albeit lazy) Facilitator to a match fit, adaptable Facilitator that can turn their hand to almost anything at any time!
So, if you're a bit like me and you have 'workshop facilitation' as a skill on your LinkedIn profile, and you talk up a big game about all the things you've facilitated in the past and can facilitate in the future, then here are few of my top tips on getting match fit when somebody actually expects you to deliver to the standard that you espouse!
1. Get Surrounded by Other Facilitators
Peer to peer learning and coaching is one of the quickest ways to elevate your skills to a new level. Don't be afraid that you might not be as polished as the facilitators that you're working with. They love it because they feel like masters of their art and they can share how great they are with someone that appreciates the techniques that most audiences are oblivious to.
This is the perfect environment for giving and receiving real, specific and purposeful feedback. Look for opportunities to co-facilitate, and don't just rush off at the end. Block in 30 minutes to debrief and provide each other specific feedback.
2. Deliver Content Outside Your Comfort Zone
Facilitating content that I was comfortable with is how I got lazy. I found myself dropping into 'trainer' mode rather than genuinely facilitating the learning process. When I started facilitating content that I wasn't an expert in, I had to lose the status and share it with the audience. It meant that I had to draw information out of the audience with quality questioning techniques, building a strong 'why' frame and generating an environment where people took ownership of the content and its relevance to their need. It wasn't about me anymore, it was about them (God forbid).
This can be pretty scary, because a lot of Facilitators that I know out there believe that you need to be an expert in what you facilitate. My argument is that, within reason, a match fit Facilitator should be able to facilitate anything, that is relevant to the audience.
3. Collect and Input Your Own Evaluation Data
This was the biggest one for me. I don't necessarily rate Kirkpatrick level 1 feedback forms (ie. the happy sheet at the end of the session). I've always felt it was subjective, depended on an individual's mood and how good the catering was for the day.
A four day residential program that I rolled out as part of a pool of Facilitators over the past 6 months included the task of inputting the evaluation forms to a central online repository for reporting purposes. I approached this task with disdain as these 'happy sheets' are based on emotion and bias, etc. They're a popularity tool!!!
It wasn't until I was up to my elbows in them that among all the 'best program I've ever been on' comments, there were some little nuggets of gold where disconnection was occurring between me and my audience. There were themes across audiences that gave me some context and clarity to continue improving and in essence, maintain my match fitness into the future.
So, whilst there were moments of contempt, and honestly some moments where an onsite counsellor would have been useful, collecting and inputting you own evaluations means that you read every one of them and the odd nugget will show itself for you to develop from.
If you spend some time reflecting, I'm sure there are other tips that would be useful for Facilitators. I'm constantly looking for ideas to improve, so feel free to share them!