Perhaps one of the most challenging functions of the facilitator is to keep the entire process on track from the onset until it culminates to the closing part of the event successfully. Probably, time is a major factor in staying on track. But the flow of the discussion is another factor to consider as well as the type of participants present during the session.
Staying on track means keeping focused on the topic in a facilitated discussion. It also means being able to follow the flow of the program or event based on the outline and the agenda within the given timeframe without missing a part. When the facilitator is able to stay focused on the structure of the event, the objectives will be very achievable and measurable.
Assigning Different Roles and Tasks
Depending on the kind of facilitation activity the facilitator is working on, he may need the assistance of other program organizers or assistant facilitators in managing the roles that need to be performed. In a seminar or a workshop for a large group, a facilitator would definitely need the aid of the event organizers with different assignments. In a training session, a trainer can make use of the participants themselves to take on different roles. This will even increase the learning experiences of the members when they assume roles. What could be some of these roles?
Aside from the role of the facilitator, assigning an assistant facilitator is a big help in monitoring particularly a large number of participants. For example, if the group is divided into two subgroups during a discussion, the assistant facilitator can direct the other group. Another role to take on is the recorder who scribbles down notes that are deemed useful for the group. This may include noting down changes to the agenda, important ideas or key points, brainstormed ideas, proposed ideas, and a lot more.
The facilitator can also assign a timekeeper whose main task is to ensure that each item in the agenda is covered within the allotted timeframe. The timekeeper should act as a reminder of the time but not a dictator.
Let us take Toastmaster’s Impromptu Speaking Session as a good example of role assignment. Their session is led by a communication facilitator. There are also assigned evaluators who mainly assess every speaker’s speech performance. They also have a designated timekeeper, “ah” & “uhm” counter, and a topic builder. This organized structuring keeps the session controlled and on track.
Refocusing on the Point of Discussion
In some aspects especially during the discussion part, some participants may be off the topic or get sidetracked from the main topic of the conversation. You might encounter a member who tends to have so much to say about the subject matter that the topic is diverted into all sorts of interesting issues. The facilitator should be alert if such circumstance happens in the discussion.
A good way to refocus to the subject at hand is to politely intervene and acknowledge the person’s witty ideas and stories and then transition quickly to the main topic or to continue where they left off before the discussion got sidetracked.
Stick to the Outline of the Program
Now, this is very important for all facilitators to follow: stick to the outline of the program. The whole facilitation process is mainly divided into three parts from starting the facilitation, during the facilitation, and ending it. In each part, the facilitator should have a paper guide of the structure or outline.
To start a program or session, the facilitator welcomes the group members, introduces oneself and the main role as a facilitator. Then, the objectives are established and after which is to confirm the agenda and the timeframe for each agenda item. If there are special tasks, start appointing them and introduce them to the group. Once this is all done, the discussion may start.
During the discussion, check how things are going from time to time and monitor the pace as well. Outline when you will use facilitation techniques in your discussion. Do not forget to summarize periodically.
In ending the session, always arrive at a consensus when a decision needs to be made. Round up some leftover items before making a follow-through and a final recap. Evaluating the session is also very essential.