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Bringing down 4 myths about facilitation

My formal education was aimed at becoming a teacher for middle and high school. I decided to gear towards facilitating adult learning after a short but wonderful time as „Teacher” because I felt I needed a challenge and corporate L&D was more up my alley. I learned how to be a trainer from my colleagues, from several courses, webinars and seminars as well as from books and articles.

Yet the most precious and useful feedback always came from the participants in the sessions I conducted because it was both practical and personal. This is how I have concluded that there are several myths about what a trainer should be and how he or she should conduct learning interventions.

Bringing down 4 myths about facilitation

These are part of the corporate culture folklore and it’s rather difficult for young professionals to bust them and become successful facilitators. But not impossible.

  1. Adult learning has to be tons of fun

    This is probably the most daunting general idea that beginners feel they have to live by. There is this common misconception that an efficient facilitator is very much like a good stand-up comedian, making all themes, regardless of seriousness or complexity hilarious and entertaining. The audience is captivated by the trainer’s charisma, engaged by endless strings of jokes and they walk out at the end of the session with a very good vibe.

    Apart from that being a really tall order, it’s also not consistent with the realities of adult learning. True, there has to be some fun in it (as is should be in all educational endeavors, regardless of the age of the participants) but genuine learning and the subsequent change in behavior comes from real effort and often quite a bit of pain. And that is actually desirable.

    Read more: Desirable difficulties during the learning process

  2. The facilitator has to be a subject matter expert

    I have absolutely no sales experience. As I have mentioned before, I have been interested in learning and teaching throughout my studying years and my entire career so far has been centered around this preoccupation. Yet I have held dozens of sales trainings and spent hundreds of hours doing on the job coaching for the retail force of a large communications company.

    Let me assure you, the results were always very good.

    Subject matter experts are indeed important, and their experience should be incorporated in learning interventions either by video or live presentations. Yet is’ crucial to understand that it’s not really about the facilitator but about the participant. The point is to bring out the best in the latter, give them some tools and guide them to discover their own strength.

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    If the person leading the training session is overwhelmingly successful at whatever the subject is, it could end up demotivating the participants instead of encouraging them.

  3. Hecklers will ruin a good training session

    One of the issues that trainers face in almost every session is that very often the attendees on the course don’t want to be there. They have been either sent by their superiors and it feels as if it’s a negative comment on their performance or they were in the middle of really important projects and hold the opinion that the learning intervention is only something that will slow them down and give them more work to do once it is over.

    Disgruntled trainees usually display poor attitudes from the very beginning and at some point, start to verbalize their dissatisfaction and attempt to undermine the training and the trainer. The key in handling them is to be prepared and not fall into the trap of starting a heated conversation.

    It’s important to find out what their issues are, take time to acknowledge and validate them as well as give trainees time to vent. Even if it ends up taking a chunk out of the time allocated for learning it is important to deal with it instead of ignoring it or it might eat up the whole session in one way or another.

  4. Facilitators are natural public speakers with zero stage fright

    It’s true that in order to become a trainer you need to have some public speaking abilities. It’s even safe to assume that anybody wanting to do this job actually enjoys talking in front of an audience. However, in the words of the wise Mark Twain „there are two types of speakers: those who get nervous and those who are liars.''

    Being nervous before a training session is normal. Certainly, experience will eventually diminish the intensity of these nerves, but some will always be there. The way to assuage the worry and ensure a pleasant experience is to follow a few simple steps:

    • Know your audience really well; figure out what’s the best way to connect with them, what they expect and what moves them.
    • Know the material; every course has a facilitator guide that is immensely helpful when it comes to sticking to the flow and making the key points stand out.
    • Familiarize yourself with the logistics; it’s crucial to know the room and the facilities you have there. It’s best to make sure everything is in place and functional the day before the session.

    Read more: 4 Awesome tips for successful classroom training

Closing thoughts

I personally believe that working as a trainer is awesome. You get to meet a lot of people and really learn and grow with them. It’s a very dynamic (and oftentimes demanding) job but it can also be very rewarding and fun.