What did I learn after working 5 months as a facilitator?

Hola !

It’s been almost 5 months since I started my job as a full-time on/offline facilitator and coordinator at makesense for their Sprint program.

Among its many characteristics, the Sprint happens to be delivered 100% online ever since its creation – at the end of 2018. I thought I might share some of my takeaways on the topic for the aspiring facilitators out there

1. The first times awkwardness there will be. Embrace it

Unless you’re both, a conversational and tech master, online facilitation will bring its share of blah moments. It’s perfectly normal and fully ok. In real-life as well you face silences or lows in a discussion, it’s the same online. Except that being alone in front of your screen makes it 100000 times harder to handle. 

If you’re not ok with it, you can totally acknowledge the elephant in the room publicly. It usually makes someone laugh and all goes back to normal. You are entirely entitled to share how awkward you feel (jokingly or not), maybe some will agree and join you?

All I’m trying to say is: no conversation is smooth from beginning to end, even if you’re responsible for it. Think of the silence as a pause, not as a failure.

2. Be yourself

Facilitation is about facilitating exchanges. Your job is to create a safe enough atmosphere for your participants to feel free to express themselves in any way they wish.  This is true whether you’re working with a groupe of 3 or 20. If you’re forcing yourself to display a certain energy you’re not familiar (or worse, not at ease) with, be sure that it will show. And you know what they say: “your group’s energy is the mirror of yours”.

Authenticity is key for you to feel natural and thus your participants to feel so themselves.

I remember at first I was amazed by how some people would be able to go all in, smile, laugh, jump around when they facilitated sessions. When I tried to replicate their style, all I was left with was immense awkwardness and strong self-doubt about my capacity to actually animate a meeting. It’s only when I decided to go back to my usual self that I realised how much the global atmosphere had changed. My special mix? A hint of bad puns, a strong love for food-related icebreakers and a pinch of auto derision 

3. If you must share your opinion, you can but

Be sure to speak as yourself, not the facilitator or the entity you might represent

4. If you feel useless, it means you succeeded 

I know this makes no sense but hear me out (or read me out should I say). I realised that one time when the batch of coordinators I facilitate started exchanging freely on their problems and brainstorm together. The rythme was smooth, everyone spoke in turn (they even raised their hand to prevent cutting each other’s sentences) and they collectively found solutions to their questions. I felt so useless I was happy.

I figured the sage who taught the guy how to fish might have felt the same the day his student cooked him a meal. Facilitation is about helping conversations start and organise. If they do so without you after a while, it doesn’t mean you suck, rather that your participants have got the hang of it.

Want to learn more about facilitation? Check this article

You might have understood: I love being a facilitator. But why? Well, mainly because your position is quite different from the one being a mentor or an expert gives you. I feel like even though you might be considered like one at first, the relationship quickly evolves to one without any hierarchy – which I am personally more at ease with.

Do you facilitate workshops as well? What do you think of it? I’m curious to learn more about the topic so feel free to reach out!

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