Some of the best methodologists are also capable of facilitating complex topics requiring pre-thought and structure.

Sometimes they fall flat on the personality factor, coming off as dispassionate, aloof, or insensitive. Most facilitators default in the other direction, they are typically warm and likable and good presenters but are frail when it comes to workshop breakdown structure and asking precise questions. It is frankly easier to teach the methodologist how to warm up to an audience than it is to teach people a comprehensive realm on critical thinking—that is, how to think clearly. Start strolling and smiling more.

As most North Americans are afraid of public speaking, the worst thing they could do is hide behind a podium (to protect themselves) as the separation amplifies the ‘me’ versus ‘them’ fear, causing them to underperform. In the role of facilitator, soften the edges by integrating yourself. Do not speak AT the participants; rather have a conversation WITH the participants.

Strolling Helps

Increase Friendliness by Avoiding Podiums

Increase Friendliness by Avoiding Podiums

To become conversational and more natural increases likability. One solution involves getting closer, measured in terms of physical proximity, to your participants. The easiest way to achieve closeness without violating personal space is to stroll closer to them.

When stuck in a small conference room with a big table or a huddle room with no perimeter, the strolling is difficult but can be achieved by walking around the table, around the room. The U-shaped seating arrangement however makes it much easier to stroll around, get closer to participants, and therefore be more conversational.

Use your space wisely. If participants are vibrant and need a documenter, then stay at the easel as a scribe, while their energy remains high. But when uncertainty or disagreement rises, begin to slowly step forward to make it easier to demonstrate active listening, and to display a sense of respect and importance toward the participant who is speaking.

In the case of an argument, make sure that evidence and claims to support the participants’ positions go through you, and not around you. There is probably no better time to be in the middle of the U-shaped seating environment than when participants are arguing. They need a referee, and serving as referee is part of the role of facilitator.

Smiling Helps More

The two universally accepted non-verbal gestures are open-hands and smiling. Open hands signify culturally that you have no weapons and will not harm the participants. Open hands are far more welcoming than the opposite, pointing.

Smiling is also accepted throughout all cultures. A genuine, smile is found appealing and increases the likeliness that your participants will warm up to you. We must be careful however not to smile too much, inappropriately, or to laugh too loud.

Please smile occasionally, even with serious topics. If the facilitator remains too stern and sober, the participants will tense up, reducing the likelihood of collaboration and innovative thinking. If you need further help learning to smile, practice. Use your introduction material to practice and ask a co-worker or family member to observe and comment on the appropriate timing for a warm smile.

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Finally, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on providing methodology. Each student thoroughly practices methodology and tools before class concludes. Additionally, some call this immersion. However, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Become Part of the Solution While You Improve Your Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology Skills

Take a class or forward this to someone who should. MG RUSH Professional Facilitation Training provides an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, and 3.2 CEUs. As a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), our Professional Facilitation. Therefore, our training aligns with IAF Certification Principles and fully prepares alumni for their Certified Professional Facilitator designation.

Furthermore, our Professional Facilitation curriculum immerses students in the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Because nobody is smarter than everybody, attend an MG RUSH  Professional Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology workshop offered around the world, see MG RUSH  for a current schedule.

Go to the Facilitation Training Store to access our in-house resources. You will discover numerous annotated agendas, break timers, and templates. Finally, take a few seconds to buy us a cup of coffee and please SHARE.

In conclusion, we dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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