There are many workshop facilitators out there. All have particular strengths or value propositions but play in the same space. Some are independent individuals, some are members of consulting companies, some are internal consultants, and so on. I have observed, among others, the following:
1. The motivational speaker
Sometimes hired to start off a workshop. Brilliant presenter, smooth communicator, knowledgeable on a specific topic, has written a few books, nice titles and a great track record that includes the president. Delivers a compelling presentation that gives you goose bumps. This extraordinary human being tells exciting stories that inspire group participants. Sometimes he’s hired as a facilitator, but he battles not to provide content.
2. The lecturer
Part of a consulting company or academic institution. Provides good content, but battles to separate process from content. Instead of facilitating processes he trains participants in a topic, then lets them work out the content themselves with little process support. When he provides a report on workshop results, it contains many models, some of which are foreign to the client. He adds value as expert content provider but battles to facilitate processes without getting too involved in the answers.
3. The Do-It-Yourselfer
The manager who chooses to facilitate the session himself. Nothing wrong with that, but he battles to manage content and process, especially if he encounters resistance with regards to content. Sessions become a talk shop with minor results and frustrated participants.
4. The Programme director
Introduces speakers and facilitates question and answer sessions. He also keeps time. No real process to workshop on, and no result other than collating the presentation slides in a report after the session, but merely chairing the proceedings. It is difficult to understand why clients would use an external facilitator for this job. Anyone with “chairperson 101” will pull this off successfully.
5. The Get-Them-To-Talker
Views his facilitation role as getting the participants to talk. Somewhere at his back is a scribe trying to capture the issues of this talk-shop. Nobody sees what is being documented. This type of facilitator has no idea what the output of the discussions should be. As long as participants talk, he thinks he is on course and achieving, when in fact the workshop is heading nowhere.
6. The Strategist
He markets himself as a Strategist or Strategic planner. He forces the client to fit into a model he endorses, instead of adapting to client’s needs. He’s a good public speaker and presenter but battles to facilitate a process that is not in tune with his model. He comes across as a content expert and adds value in that regard, but in no other way. He’s similar to a consultant with a pompous title, because everyone knows who the real strategists and strategic planners are. Or do they?
7. The Expert
Occasionally a client would say, “I need e.g. an agricultural/health/what have you” expert to facilitate the process. Such an expert faces the challenge of remaining content neutral. He should be providing content as a participant or presenter during the workshop, instead of facilitating the workshop processes towards agreed outputs.
8. The Practical Workshop Facilitator
The Practical workshop facilitator supports the client (task owners). He understands that participants are the decision makers, the strategists, the strategic planners, the content owners. He understands the outputs or deliverables to be achieved, chooses and manages the most effective process and tools, stimulates participation, massages the content in terms of level, type and consistency and ensures effective recording of results.
There is room for all types of facilitators in business, as is evidenced by clients with certain preferences.
But if workshop success is of paramount importance—and it should be—the practical workshop facilitator is the one you need.
Need someone to facilitate your next workshop? Make contact. I look forward to hearing from you.