Key elements of workshop facilitation

3 things to understand for successful workshop facilitation

If your management workshop is to be successful, you need to understand the three main ingredients:

  • Process
  • Content
  • Group dynamics


According to WordWeb, process is a “…particular course of action intended to achieve a result”.

Process involves the route followed to reach all workshop deliverables, as well as the documentation of the outcomes.

Process belongs to the workshop facilitator. And because it belongs to the facilitator, the participants don’t have to worry about it.

If your workshop is successful, participants walk away from it with all of the agreed upon deliverables met, and with results documented well and available electronically.


Content is the substance around which the workshop is arranged.

Content belongs to participants. And because it belongs to participants, the facilitator does not have to understand it. Not even a little bit.

Content can be anything, from determining a budget for an IT department, to the development of a new insurance package, to the expansion of a lingerie range, to an analysis of African bird calls. Anything.

A good workshop facilitator is not unnerved by the content, because he knows it doesn’t belong to him.

Group dynamics

For a workshop to run smoothly, it is crucial for the workshop facilitator to understand group dynamics.

In short, group dynamics is the sum total of the facets of each workshop participant.

Each workshop participant is unique.

Some participants are content to take a more spectatorial role in the workshop, while others might want to use the opportunity to be recognised.

Some participants relish the opportunity to speak to a crowd, while others wince at the very idea.

The workshop facilitator, being the one who guides the workshop towards a destination, needs to be aware of these dynamics, and needs to know how to handle them.

If he does not control the group dynamic, the whole workshop can deteriorate into a circus, which means that goals won’t be reached.

It’s like a taxi ride

A management workshop is like a taxi ride.

The taxi driver is the workshop facilitator, while the passenger is the group of participants.

The driver of the taxi doesn’t need to know everything about his passenger. He only needs to know the destination the passenger needs to arrive at. With that piece of information he can guide the passenger through any traffic and around any obstacle to ensure that his passenger arrives at the right place in the quickest way possible.

It’s not like lecturing

I used to lecture at an IT company. My forte was management and leadership.

When approached to join a team of analysts at the company, I was out of my depth. My colleagues discussed things I’ve never heard of before, using words as foreign to me as Ongota (google that one).

I felt that I could not add value! What could I bring to the table? Certainly not content.

But one day they asked me to facilitate a process during a strategic planning workshop for one of our clients.

Instead of trying to bring content to the situation, I asked participants to come up with what they considered critical to their business’ success. A simple analyses was performed, where the participants rated their performance against these critical factors, and an action plan was developed to improve on the areas of weakness.

The outcome was triumphant. After the event, participants claimed that the session—consisting of information they owned; I merely organised—was an eye opener.

I learnt my first critical lessons about workshop facilitation there:

  • The value of separating content from process.
  • A facilitator need not provide content, as long as the group brain is at work.
  • A facilitator need not understand the content at all.
  • A facilitator must be content neutral.
  • Content and process are two sides of the same coin.

This whole event was vastly different from my background of lecturing.

But I embraced facilitation.

And I’m glad I did, since it allows me to help other people come up with solutions they didn’t know they were capable of coming up with.

How about you? Are you ready to experience the success of a properly facilitated management workshop? Ready to unearth solutions you weren’t even aware were there?

You need a professional workshop facilitator. Make contact. I look forward to hearing from you.


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