“Facilitation is about being yourself, just a bit more animated.”

Sometimes I wish I can remember who first shared that with me. It has meant so much to understanding how to facilitate that I want to run up to that person and give them a big hug. Animatedly. When I remember who it was!

Several weeks ago I attended a regular L & D get-together in Sydney, and the guest speaker was there to share the work she does in the realm of Neuroscience of Leadership. Her pressure was to get across many hours of content in one hour, to an audience who had worked a full day already. In her words to the assembled audience of L & D peers, “I am going to break every rule of Neuroscience tonight.”

It was facilitation – there was plenty of asking questions and feeding off the responses – but it was also loaded with humour and urgency. As the hour progressed, I noticed her body movement increase more and more. She worked across the small space back and forth, clicker in hand, a blur of sharp movements, big hands, massive smiles.

She was controlling the energy in the room with her movement; facilitation as performance art.

The one thing from my upbringing that helped me to innately ‘get’ facilitation was doing ballet for 10 years. A sense of performance, use of space and movement with purpose. In a way I had already been through that issue every facilitator has at some stage when they start… stagefright. However, learning to facilitate in front of yours peers is confronting.

I remember the first PD course for facilitation that I attended. the group of us were in masks at one stage to build up our fledgling facilitation selves in a protected way. I remember at one stage I started crying, such was the pressure of taking off the mask. It was a powerful learning experience, and indicative of just how big a journey of self-discovery learning to facilitate really is. I think I cried because I realised right then that my whole self was on show, and I wasn’t very happy at the time with my whole self.

Self-awareness is the bedrock of being able to scrutinise your body, attitude and words; then control them for effect. To achieve the animation a situation demands, I have a couple of tricks. The first is to own the space. An idea I got from Rob Davey at RogenSi is to stand in the middle of the room before the workshop starts. You shut your eyes, imagine shooting arrows with ropes attached into the corners of the room, and being anchored. I still do this today for every workshop and I always feel the space is mine and there for me to use in full. The second trick is to add 20% more to everything; laugh harder, walk taller, pause longer, bigger gestures.

The only issue I find now with being animated is the adjustment in toning down when I get home from work. Sometimes my wife says “Please don’t facilitate to me.” You can never have too much self-awareness!

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