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The Enabler: Bridging the differences between Speaking, Presenting, Training & Facilitation

Circa 2006/2007 , in an Executive Presence program that I was delivering, whilst the participants were busy penning their own elevator pitch, I started working on mine too as it required a much-needed revamp.
r was becoming cliché and common in my field and therefore in a quest to get an impressive word that has a nice ring to it, I fell upon the word “Facilitator” and loved the zing around it.
For me (as with many of us uninitiated), the words Trainer and Facilitator were synonymous and interchangeable; so yes, I started calling myself a Facilitator. Majorly the clients didn’t care as whatever I called myself I still delivered their requirement to their satisfaction. And as for the participants, they went with what I said.
I think it was circa 2008/2009, one of my regular clients - Unilever’s HR Partner for the R&D team Jerry, called me up and asked me specifically that they wanted a Facilitator. Dear ignorant me! I said I can do it as I was a Facilitator!. A deep-dive probing conversation later, he politely said that what I was describing was Training and not Facilitation.
Losing work in those days wasn’t easy, and my quest to know what is really the difference, led me to Google Deva (the God of Answers!) and voila! he threw me to the rapids of the world of facilitation, (process facilitation to be precise) by marrying me to the International Association of Facilitators (IAF).
So what’s the difference between training and facilitation? And then how much is it different from speaking & presenting.
I think it was the Singapore Facilitators Network, where a model called the Content and Process model was talked of and for me this gave me my much needed answers.
It’s all about how much CONTENT you bring about in the group vs. how much content you can solicit from the group by using an appropriate PROCESS.
If you bring in your own content and the audience is primarily only listening, then surely, it falls into the category of Speaking. We all know the power of Speaking and yes, it has its own charm and impact if done well. Look at the politicians and our spiritual speakers – they are amazing and influential in their discourses.
Presenting started more in organisational board rooms. In the model, the communicator is a bit more towards the right (compared to the speaker), where you are bringing in your own content however you give a bit of leeway for the audience’s opinion to emerge by way of seeking inputs on the topic, clarifying questions and doubts raised by the group etc. It’s possible that some presenters actually present more as a monologue, and thus they trap themselves to the left of the model.
Trainer usually is engaged to train on pre-decided topics as per the objectives agreed between the L&D (Learning & Development) and the Trainer. They design the modules of the workshop/program in a way that transfer of learning happens and the learner gains knowledge, skill and/or attitude to start applying the learnings back in the workplace. Usual practice of programs being minimum of a day’s affair can really tire the learner group as at times there is too much of download of information. And then if the Trainer is a novice, they may make sessions boring by primarily one-way communication.
Awareness that training can be drab has made the L&D folks seek out more for Engaging Trainers or as you see in the model a Facilitative Trainer. To be honest, many trainers do not come to this zone at all as they are so dependent on the slides that they use. Being a Facilitative Trainer needs one to understand the learner profile and make the training lively by using engaging methodologies. If one can move to this zone, each training session becomes learning in a fun & engaging way.
So, how is all this so different from facilitation?
And what is Group Process Facilitation?
At a basic understanding level, the term Facilitator is derived partially from the Old French "faculte" via Latin "facultas", or parallel form of "facilitas". Both were derived from Latin "facilis" or easy, an adjective formed from the verb "facere", or to do.
Kaner defines facilitator as follows: "A facilitator is an individual who enables groups and organizations to work more effectively; to collaborate and achieve synergy. She or he is a “content-neutral” party who by not taking sides or expressing or advocating a point of view during the meeting, can advocate for fair, open, and inclusive procedures to accomplish the group’s work. A facilitator can also be learning or a dialogue guide to assist a group in thinking deeply about its assumptions, beliefs, and values and about its systemic processes and context" (Kaner: 2007: xv)
Gary Rush, IAF CPF, defines Facilitator as follows: "A Facilitator is a content-neutral task leader who forms a group of people into a collaborative team supporting consensus and uses a range of processes to enable the group to accomplish their task. The Facilitator is responsible for the context." (G Rush: 2013).
Check out the IAF Competencies too.
So now if you look at the sketch in the model, the facilitator is:
·        working with the group,
·        makes it easy for the group to build up its own content,
·        supports consensus by prioritizing points/ideas if required,
·        is content-neutral (doesn’t go about leading the groups thoughts/points/ideas)
·        enables the group to reach it’s desired outcome/s
·        helps the group to think deeply about its assumptions, beliefs, and values
·        builds collaborative outcomes

Is this easy?
Mind you, honestly NOT AT ALL EASY!!!!
Usually as a Speaker, Presenter, Trainer we are used to being on a pedestal position (a position that comes from our belief that we have more knowledge compared to the group) and many a times as a SME (Subject Matter Expert) we love to give “gyan” to the group.
Silencing this guru in us is a herculean task and if one comes from a hierarchical society, then it’s a long arduous journey by itself.
Now the Question is what are you really?
A Speaker, a Presenter, a Trainer, a Facilitative Trainer or a Facilitator!
Or can you adapt to each one of the above, based on the client, group, need or situation. If yes, then go ahead call yourself … The Enabler!


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