By: Lisa-Marie Hanson (Facilitator and Speaker Coach)

A long time ago – in a land far away, I conducted my first train-the-trainer session (okay, it was about ahem, 25 years ago). Everyone selected to be on the facilitation team didn’t come from training or facilitation backgrounds, but instead were subject matter experts with no real experience standing in front of a room. I remember the group was a little scared and dutifully set about learning the design/content, flow and process to go out and facilitate a repeatable session around the world. To ensure they had facilitation skill support, we focused much of our attention on quality delivery mechanics and adult learning techniques.

The day after the first wave of sessions were slated to be delivered, I received a voicemail from one of the newly minted facilitators. She said:

“LM, I just delivered my first session today – successfully. It’s important you know that you covered most the things I needed to know to do well, but you forgot to tell me something really important…    

You didn’t tell me it was gonna feel like this. It feels so great.”

I kept that voicemail as long as the system allowed me to. To this day, I still recall the joy in her voice and now characterize what she experienced as the “facilitation high.”  That is the feeling you get when you have delivered a session so well, you were in the groove and the participants were part of the combustible energy in the room, but most importantly, a discernable change happens so that participants are impacted. While it’s hard to describe, I’ll bet many of you know what I am talking about. Suffice it to say, it’s magic.

Since that time, I have done many train-the trainers and facilitation skills development sessions. And I’ve learned the magic doesn’t come from a natural affinity for being “on the platform.”  Because a presentation or speech is never really about the facilitator. Instead, it is about the participant

Adult learning calls this participant centered. The basic idea is that facilitators approach their work as guides in the process of discovery rather than as all-knowing teachers or centers of knowledge. It’s the speaker’s aim to gradually shift responsibility for the success of the session or learning experience from him/herself, to the learner. As learners progress, the facilitator fades more and more into the background, allowing learners to take more ownership and control over their learning. When it starts to happen, you can hear it – you can even sometimes feel it. 

For example, you might see the light bulbs beginning to pop over the heads of your audience or experience the “stick” people talk about in training. When it happens, it’s something you remember for a lifetime. And maybe your participants just might too.

To learn about this approach to speaking, attend the upcoming session on “Presenting Successfully and Effectively” on November 7 at the Mill City Museum.

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