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Style with Substance Makes Facilitation Work

"This isn't flying, this is falling with style." - Buzz Lightyear

"Gee, Dan. I like your facilitation style!"

Often, I get this response from my clients and program participants. I wonder about it. I wonder if this well-meaning comment is meant as a compliment. I wonder if they get it. I mean, "Style?" Is that all you see in me? Hmm.

A talented facilitator will make purposeful choices about how to approach an agenda, group, and goals. They plan thoughtfully to engage the group in the material, the process, and the outcomes. If this is done well, the group itself achieves its objectives. Look here for more on professional facilitation.

The impact of the facilitators choices is significant. First, the facilitator is helping learners and participants engage in the content. We want them to remember things, right? (See my earlier post on this.) Beyond remembering, facilitators want true engagement with an expectation for follow through. Follow through by his or her participants. They make commitments and take actions. That's the business value of participating and engaging.

Sure, style matters. It's the sizzle with the steak. It's the packaging. It's the "likability factor." Sure, I get that. If they don't like you, they may not listen to you.

My choices in facilitating learning are purposefully meant to achieve:

  • Remembering. I use spaced learning, forced recall, note taking (with pen and paper), review games, application exercises, and simulations to name a few.

  • Fun. I keep discussion light and real. I use questions and follow ups. I put forth real-world problems for learners to solve. I help learners discover their own insights into issues.

  • Performance. My learners work harder than I do, and I work pretty hard. I emphasize application with real world constraints and feedback. The relevance of high-fidelity practices gives learners a jolt of energy and enthusiasm. "Hey, I can do this!"

The impact of style is significant. That said, style is what people often call thoughtful presentation, facilitation, and teaching techniques. I hope it shows that the "style" they notice is actually effective instructional technique, based upon what we know that works.


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