Facilitation 101Apr 24, 2023
A REALITY CHECK
Yoda asked me to not only send him my slide deck with notes, but to also do a virtual run through of my session with him weeks before the event was to take place.
It was my sixth year as a school principal and my ninth year as a school administrator. I was asked to present at our upcoming Principals’ Meeting around the roles & responsibilities systems for my leadership team that I had in place at my school so these could be replicated by others that may be newer or needing support in this area. The Director of School Leadership Development, a man I later lovingly referred to as my Yoda, oversaw the Principals’ Meeting, which was a 2-day event in which all 80+ principals, 16 Directors of School Quality and members of departments that served the schools met for professional development.
When Yoda asked me to run through my slides with him, I remember thinking, okay, but I speak in front of my staff and school community all the time, and this is my content. I personally have no problem getting up in front and sharing my trade secrets.
That’s when the ego check came! Not only did we do that run through, but 2 more before Yoda deemed me ready to be in front of the group. He questioned me on the flow of my content, the objectives I wanted the audience to gain, what they needed to know to build this new knowledge upon, what they were going to walk away having developed, how they would implement the new learning, and how I was going to engage them during the session. Now you know why I called him Yoda!
Two years later, I was now the new Director of School Leadership Development and Yoda was my boss. With the coaching I received from both him and the team I ended up leading, we created world-class sessions and conferences for over 600 participants. This was done by learning to prepare and evaluate content appropriately before it ever went in front of our participants: Facilitation 101.
To effectively create and facilitate a workshop or large-scale presentation, I learned that a great deal went into this. It can take upwards of 25+ hours to create and prepare for 1 hour of a session. If you haven’t realized it yet – Preparation is the key!
PREPARATION IS KEY
And NO you can’t be overly prepared!
Make the presentation your own. Whether you are creating content from scratch or facilitating predeveloped content, you find a way to make it your own. This is the best way to help you connect with the content and more easily remember it when you are in front of a group. A few easy ways to do this is to add to the notes section on slides, placing your stories and connections in there. You can reword some of the content to sound more like the way you present material. Sometimes even adding or changing pictures on a slide can help you connect with the material and remember your notes during facilitation.
Plan enough time to create and rehearse the content before you need to finalize it. As stated previously, it can take upwards of 25+ hours to create 1 hour of content, including: creation, evaluation/feedback, updating based on feedback and final editing. (* Trade tip – ALWAYS have someone that is not familiar with the content scrub the deck for you, meaning look for all the errors that you can’t see because you have been looking at it for so long.)
Time out the sections and place these in the notes section of the deck. Add notes stating how much time is dedicated to each slide. At the beginning of a new section, have a time for that section, meaning what time on the clock should you see when you get to that section. (*Trade tip - Print out a copy of your slides/notes so you can refer to them and adjust for timing differences. PowerPoint >Export >create handouts is a great way to have a copy with the image and notes.)
Practice OUT LOUD!!!! And time yourself while doing so. You may think that because you have spent that much time working on the content, you know it inside and out. WRONG! Things are completely different when you say them aloud and even more different when you are slightly nervous and in front of people. When you practice aloud, you hear your first draft. You can tell immediately when something is not flowing properly and adjust before you are in front of a group giving them your first draft. Practice multiple times. When you say things aloud the way you want them to be done during the session, you create that soundbite in your mind to play back later. It is important to time yourself while you are practicing aloud so that you can see if you were on target with the timing you added to your slides and sections and adjust accordingly.
HOW TO KNOW YOU ARE FULLY PREPARED
To create world-class sessions, we evaluated and gave feedback to every person that was going up in front of our leaders, including myself, Yoda, and even the CEO of the company. There were 3 main areas we looked at and gave feedback on. And yes, sometimes people had to do more than one run through. Even if you do not have a team evaluating your content you can find someone to give you feedback on the following:
- Time: The content outlined and presented should fit in the time allocated for the session. People who, like young me, believe that they know their content and can simply talk about it often go over time in a session or presentation. It is very important to be cognizant of the timing of your content for the respect of both your participants and any presenters that are following you.
- Engagement: There should be captivating content along with enough activities built into the session that the participants are engaged at all times. The session is about them and what they need to get out of it – not about you and how much you know about the content. There are several different strategies and tools that can be used to increase the engagement of your participants, but that is another blog post in and of itself.
- Content/Flow: The content should build upon itself in a logical way and should help the participants understand why they are there and how to apply the content. This is where rehearsing your presentation out loud, especially in front of someone who can give you feedback, is essential. The content may seem logical and flow in your mind, but it is not until someone else tries to follow the flow that you know if it works.
Sometimes you get a participant in your session that is as we call “difficult” (trade terminology 😉). Here are a few ways your preparation and mindset as a facilitator can help:
- You know your content and what the goals are for the participants in the session. Remain confident in this. If this participant seems to be trying to derail you or negate the content in any way, you can simply ask them what it is they are wrestling with in their mind. How is the content occurring to them or how are they experiencing it? More often than not there is a misunderstanding or a misalignment with a connection they are making to the content.
- A workshop or presentation is like a buffet – no one is meant to eat everything there. You can ask the difficult participant what they were hoping to get from the session. Help them to find the nuggets of information that they can take away from the session and implement that connects to their envisioned objectives.
- If all else fails – ask them to lead the session for you, I mean they seem to know what they are talking about more than you do, right? …NO actually never do that even though the little voice in your mind wants you to! What you can do is allow them to feel seen and heard. It is okay to share with the rest of the group that information in sessions can occur differently to each individual according to how the world occurs to them. There is never a reason to believe everything that is presented. Encourage them to try it on, see if it fits and take it off if it doesn’t fit them. There is never a need to prove you are right and your participants are wrong; challenging information and content is where deeper inquiry and learning occurs.
There is no greater confidence than that of a well-prepared facilitator who knows their content. You may still have nerves coursing through you as you make your way to the front or encounter a participant that challenges your skill; these are normal occurrences. The difference is that with preparation you have a firm foundation to stand on. So go find your Yodas who will help you practice and prepare. That will help you not only breathe easier as you facilitate, but also serve your participants to the best of your ability.
By Jaci Jeffery - Executive Coach, Novus Global
With a background in education, administration, and leadership development, Jaci helps clients create professional development programs, facilitates leader/team professional development and provides executive coaching.