A facilitator is a person who facilitates or “streamlines” meetings, seminars, conferences or discussions. The right facilitator helps with good and effective communication that is focused on outcomes.
A facilitator is neutral, and therefore it is standard practice for some companies, organisations, groups of people or complicated meetings to appoint a facilitator who provides facilitation services for the discussion, meeting, planning or change management.
(You may have seen or been part of meetings that ended in chaos because nobody could agree on the points of action, or some people are angry at others, or the meeting was totally wasted. Right?)
It is important for the facilitator to have experience and knowledge of good communication, “reading between the lines”and unpacking messages or what people are trying to say. The nonverbal interpretation of participating members is also of critical importance – sometimes it is not what people say, but how they are saying it.
A facilitator guides the conversation and “brings” back the discussion if it goes off-point, but also supports the participants to come up with their “best thinking”, most original ideas and creative solutions. It is therefore good for the facilitator to have knowledge about creative thinking, and the techniques. A person who provides facilitation needs to have different vital skills: good listening, good articulation, people skills, patience, a sense of humor, knowledge of the process of communication, a sense of objectivity and remaining neutral in heated situations.
Bringing pieces together in a pattern through facilitation
In other cases, there may be an underlying conflict or communication problem between employees or managers or participants, and they are themselves too involved to see the solution. Participants can become emotional, or do not even want to participate. The facilitator’s job is to bring all these points logically into the discussion, give every person an opportunity to talk – even those who do not want to – and get to agreements about future plans and action.
The following are situations where facilitators can be used:
Educational or academic facilitators, especially in dialogical conversations and contexts
Small group facilitators
Facilitators for different types of parties e.g. gender, labour groups, intercultural or diversity situations.
A good facilitator not only does timekeeping, sticking to the agenda, framing objectives and goals, but also importantly steers around conflict while getting participants to be honest and share their contributions or opinions. They must involve the people who prefer to be silent, and must do a lot of interpretation or “framing” of what has been said without taking sides at all.
It takes a lot of listening carefully.
Focus groups, as a qualitative method, also makes use of facilitators in order to get the diverse and strong opinions of participants on a specific topic that is being researched.
With my studies and long years of experience in communication and lecturing, I would love to do some facilitation for you or your next meeting. Please contact me.