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Trainer's Top Tips

5 Top Tips for Facilitating Learning

The WHY and HOW to facilitate rather than present.

I was sitting in on a Corporate Development Day last week, watching one of the other speakers attempt to train the audience on how to improve their sales process. He was talking, telling a few stories, asking (and answering) questions and talking more.

And there and then it occurred to me that the speaker really didn’t know the difference between presenting and facilitating.

So whilst Sales Training isn’t my ‘sweet-spot’ (I leave that to my eminently more capable associate team) I do know a thing or two about great facilitation skills; after all I’ve been doing this for over 20 years! If you also know your stuff, you’ll know that it’s easy to stand in front of an audience and present information.

It is much more difficult to provide new information and skills, to help people understand the information or skill, to help them experience the information or skill, for them to then leave a session feeling that THEY learned something.

So, if you’re a trainer, coach or manager, try these few tips:

Trainers Top Tips

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1.  DON’T REPEAT.

Resist the temptation to restate participants’ comments and answers or to add your own thoughts to theirs.

WHY

When you restate what participants say, it tells them they don’t need to listen to each other and that information must pass through you to be valid.  It tells them you’re the ‘sage on the stage’ and that your knowledge is more important than their experience.

HOW

Instead of repeating, restating, or adding to what participants say, turn it back to the room (see #2).

2. TURN IT BACK TO THE ROOM. 

Let the participants repeat, add on, or clarify what others say.

WHY

People – especially adults – learn best when they share their experiences in the context of the content, and can actively engage with their peers.  You will know they are learning when they ask additional questions and apply the learning to real work experiences by sharing with each other, not just with you.

HOW

Instead of restating, try these:

  • Let Olivia know if you can’t hear him. What he is saying is important for all of us.
  • Who has an example of what Jane is talking about?
  • Would anyone like to build on what Brian said?
  • Let’s see if we’ve got what Molly’s saying. Could someone restate what was said as it relates to you?
  • Tell me more.

3. ANSWER WITH QUESTIONS. 

Instead of being the sole supplier of answers, turn back to the group for their insights.

WHY

It sends the message that what participants have to offer is important and valid.  It also deepens thinking.

HOW

Instead of giving answers, ask:

  • What do you think about his/her question?
  • Does anyone have an example of what Stephen said?
  • Who has something to add?
  • What leads you to that conclusion?
  • Let’s turn that back to the group and see what they think about that idea.
  • Who’d like to share an insight?

4. EMBRACE SILENCE. 

People are naturally reflective so try to resist the temptation to talk if participants don’t respond straight away.

WHY

A pause allows time for participants to process questions or concepts and to formulate responses.  It also reinforces that you won’t just give answers.

HOW

Instead of talking, wait at least six seconds for responses.

Deepen the discussion—and the learning.

5. ASK OPEN & INSIGHTFUL QUESTIONS. 

Rather than adding more content or giving answers. This will help participants take their thinking deeper.

WHY

Real learning takes place when we dig deep. This means analysis and application – thinking about how things work together and making connections between content and ‘real life’.

HOW

Ask questions such as:

  • Why do you think that?
  • Does it always work that way? If not, why?
  • How could it be different?
  • Why do you think Jane said that?

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Author: Jane Rennie

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