Tips for facilitators – I

I like to facilitate workshops. I actually very much like to be a facilitator. But what does facilitator mean? The Cambridge Dictionary defines facilitation in the following way:

The act of helping other people to deal with a process or reach an agreement or solution without getting directly involved in the process, discussion, etc. yourself.

However, often you will take on different roles such as the role of a coach or a trainer. I will skip the definition of those, because I want to mainly focus on facilitation. But it is still an aspect that makes the job so diverse and challenging.

Today I was able to give my first full Design Thinking workshop for the company I work for. Earlier this year I was educated as a Design Thinking coach, but until today there was no time to apply this knowledge in a training setting. I realized again how much fun it is to train and facilitate and I thought about sharing some of the tips with you to make the challenging or for some scary task of facilitating a workshop a little easier.

Today I want to talk about how you can make your life a little easier and reduce the pressure you might put yourself under. One of the most calming thoughts is that your participants have often no clue what is about to happen during the training. So, even when you forget something, or you mix things up, they won’t know. And they won’t care. If you have put a lot of effort in your workshop, then it is going to be a success. Even if you forget some of the things you wanted to include.

The second tip is to use the group. Imagine you have a topic you want to speak about. What do you normally do in the beginning? You have an introduction into the topic. That is no small feat. You need to make it motivating and interesting for others. This can involve a lot of work to prepare. So, why not harvesting the knowledge of the group? You can ask them who has heard or knows something about the topic or ask them a reflection question along the lines of “What could this be/mean?”. It is a win-win-win situation. They can demonstrate their knowledge and are therefore more motivated, they feel that everyone is at eye-levels which creates trust, and you as a facilitator don’t have to prepare so much and can just add to or adjust what has been said.

I hope those two tips can already help you to reduce the anxiety of having to facilitate a session.


Take care, Stephan

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