I have seen some amazing presentations in my life. I’ve seen speakers who know how to captivate their audience, tell an engaging story, and drive the point home. I’ve heard startling facts, emotional anecdotes, and hilarious tales. And most often, I’ve left my seat feeling motivated, inspired, and ready to take action in some way. Then, when I’m asked to share what I learned with others, I’ll often respond, “you had to be there.” Presentations can be very impactful and I fully believe that public speaking and storytelling are important techniques to embrace. I appreciate the fact that there are countless presentation trainings available for people to improve their skills; I only wish that people gave as much thought to their facilitation skills.
Facilitation is the art of guiding others to a defined objective by listening and asking questions to enhance the results. While presentation pushes information out to the audience, facilitation pulls information and guides discoveries. Where the presenter says, "here's what I think..." the facilitator asks, "what do you think?" In a facilitated session, everyone in attendance is a participant rather than an audience member. There’s a sense of ownership that the session belongs to everyone involved and that you get out what you put in.
The facilitator sets the tone in the room by embodying the behaviors that she wants to see in others. She takes on an empathic demeanor and seeks understanding whenever possible. She makes no assumptions and ensures that she sees various points of views before moving forward. In doing so, she creates a space where every participant feels encouraged and supported to speak their truth and make discoveries.
There are plenty of reasons why you may want to seek facilitation over presentation. For instance, when you have a group of talented individuals and you’d like to reach a consensus, innovate collectively, or solve a problem together, then it’s important that you have a facilitator to guide them. Everyone in the room should be able to focus on the problem at hand; the facilitator should focus on how they get there.
If the facilitator navigates the map and acts as the DJ, the participants are free to drive.