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Facilitation Skills: How Social Do We Need to Be?

Posted by Marsha Weisleder on 2/20/14 3:00 AM
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Developing rapport with learners and establishing a good learning climate can make or break your sessions; these are key facilitation skills for instructors and facilitators. Learners need to feel welcome, safe, comfortable, and understood in our classes. We also strive to build cohesiveness amongst the group. All good facilitators know that learner relationships are just as important as course content.

In our Advanced Instructional Techniques workshop, we discuss facilitation skills and many tips to build cohesiveness. Some of the suggestions are as follows:

  • Create an identity for each small group (e.g. a name, location in the room, or nickname).
  • Use an icebreaker that brings out shared experiences.
  • Set-up mild competition between groups to encourage a sense of “team.”
  • Set-up exercises so that the team is successful.
  • Promote social activities.

So, the question becomes, as facilitators, how social do we need to be? Obviously, we can have informal conversations with the group and individual participants, before class and during breaks. But what about the lunch hour and after class? Is that also part of our job?

I know some instructors like to spend lunchtime on their own, enjoying some quiet time before starting the afternoon session. Let’s face it; we’re “on” for most of the day. And after a long day, I understand why instructors would want to head home and regroup for the next day.

One could also argue that we need to maintain a professional relationship with the group, and socializing after hours could impact that. I can only imagine the damage that could be done if we were to share too much or slide too far into the personal realm. And let’s not even discuss the possibility of having too many cocktails! Haven’t we all seen that co-worker who drank too much at the Christmas party and was never able to live it down?

Having said all that, I must say, my preference is to socialize with the class. I like to have lunch with the group, and spend at least one day after class together. I find these informal times to be critical to the success of the workshop. It gives me more time to learn about the participants and connect with them. We can continue discussing some of their challenges, or I can answer any questions that we didn’t have time to address in class. I probably socialize more often when it’s a smaller group. I find I’m able to build those relationships and foster that cohesiveness with fewer people in the room.

So, my fellow trainers, what’s your position on promoting social activities during training? Are you for or against it? Do you include “social activities” in your facilitation skills toolbox? Does it depend on the group size or location of the training? I’d love to hear your point of view!

 

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Marsha has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience. She went on to attend Osgoode Hall Law School and practiced civil litigation for a few years. While working for a company as their in-house legal counsel, Marsha fell into a training position and never looked back! Each day, Marsha brings passion and excitement to her workshops, always encouraging her participants to find their own passion as well. Outside of the classroom, Marsha loves to spend time with her family, travel, and stay active. Of course her main obsession is Elvis! Some people might think she’s a little over-the-top about him, but doesn’t everyone have an Elvis shrine in their home? Maybe not…

Topics: facilitation, instructor-led training, tips-for-trainers

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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