There is a huge difference between facilitating, presenting and training yet business people are constantly mixing up these approaches. Facilitation and presentation are both skills that can be learned by anyone. Being able to train others takes skill, talent, patience, care, resilience and a strong desire to help people learn.
Facilitation is all about process. Effective facilitators are skilled at keeping meetings on track, paying attention to the agenda, making sure breaks are taken, making sure every voice is heard and often managing disruptive participants. Skilled facilitators do not need to be subject matter experts; they need to be group process experts. They also need the confidence to speak up and tactfully tell an egotistical senior executive that he or she is taking the meeting off track. This is not as easy as it sounds. A few years ago, I was hired to facilitate a meeting for Johnson & Johnson on reverse distribution, a subject I know nothing about. I was told that the group, which consisted of many senior executives, kept getting off track because no one was willing to tell others to stop talking. I was hired to keep the meeting on track and not let senior executives sabotage the agenda. The group was working with a tight deadline and the meeting needed a facilitator.
Unlike facilitation, effective presenters are subject matter experts that communicate a message with poise and eloquence. They know how to engage the audience by using effective visual language, vocal variety and share interesting content. Skilled presenters use stories and example to make their content come alive. They are also keenly aware of their audience and plan their remarks to fit the audience’s needs. They know how and when to use PowerPoint to enhance the spoken message.
Being a good presenter does not automatically lead to being an effective trainer although in many organization this assumption is made. Organizations identify brilliant subject matter experts with good presentation skills and ask them to deliver and sometimes design training programs. When this happens, subject matter experts often find themselves spending a huge amount of time preparing PowerPoint slides to deliver in a lecture format. Last month, I was hired by a global healthcare organization to deliver a Train the Trainer program for internal trainers/subject matter experts. When I arrived I discovered that the instructional design team, who were brilliant engineers, had spent the past month developing a deck of PowerPoint slides (more than 150). These engineers knew nothing about adult learning principles or making the material participant centered. Once developed, the PowerPoint slides were reviewed by a senior committee who also knew nothing about adult learning. The approach was to deliver a passive lecture while the participants flipped through a binder filled with the PowerPoint slides. After three grueling days of Train the Trainer, the design team decided to revise the material and make it participant centered. Luckily, the revisions happened before the implementation to 9,000+ employees.
Effective trainers possess strong facilitation and presentation skills. They know when to facilitate and how to present information. They move between these two skills during a training program. Great trainers understand how adults learn and they make sure not to bore adults with lectures and thousands of PowerPoint slides. They also know that interaction increases retention and comprehension.
If you or your organization needs help developing facilitation, presentation or training skills, please call me at 845-294-7089.