Don’t air your dirty laundry as a facilitator

Every now and then we can place our self in a situation where we are the learner in a non-educational setting – that is, an informal learning environment that is not a traditional educational institution such as a school or university. That’s the best thing about seeing oneself as a learner – the boundaries are borderless – and opportunities are rife in possibilities of learning all sorts of new skills and knowledge.

So a few weekends ago I attended a beer and food matching session by a new emerging microbrewery. It was a great chance to taste test the beverages and to hear about the brewers’ intent, their ideas and to align with their vision and passion for their creation. The food matching highlighted the palette, and the tastes that could be achieved for penultimate enjoyment. Now it was the weekend, I should be relaxing and enjoying the space of this opportunity but I found myself fascinated by the facilitator of this session. My educational background and focus on learning and teaching moments couldn’t rest- actually to tell the truth my mind was ticking over from the very beginning, and I couldn’t help but observe what was happening in the space. I began to think about what makes a good facilitator or rather the don’ts that loose a captured audience. I came out of the beer and food tasting session with a list of 6 don’ts…

  1. Don’t treat the audience of adults like they are one year olds.
  2. Don’t presume all are ’empty vessels’ (not the best metaphor but we get the gist) and that there is no prior knowledge.
  3. Don’t air your dirty laundry – in the case of this facilitator it was pretty clear after 60 minutes that he was a hater of the opposite sex and that he had been divorced sererval times! Say no more. I really don’t want to know the personal life of my facilitator especially when I have such a short period of time to get to know the content.
  4. Don’t forget to take a breath and allow think time – for all involved.
  5. Don’t invite questions and then cut off participants who are eager to learn.
  6. Don’t forget when answering questions what was asked. Not listening and getting lost in one’s own tangents with talk about something totally non-related is a sure way of loosing any learner.

Now these seem basic but when one is talking to and facilitating a session that has been advertised as interactive and an opportunity to ask questions, there is need to be aware of how one will present themselves – matter the formal or informal setting. It is of course hard to balance content with presentation skills but this list of simple don’ts should be a priority for any learning.

 I wonder what experiences you have had out and about that have pushed your buttons and needs for better learning facilitation experiences? 


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