At the end of a workshop I ran last week, to wrap things up I asked for everyone’s highlight of the day. People in the room shared their favourite bits of content, until we got to the second last person. He said “Hearing from my fellow participants.” The room went a bit quiet, everyone looked at me, then back at him, then back at me. After a second or two, I replied “You know what, same here.”

I’ve reflected on that moment a fair bit since. It would be a big measure of facilitation success if everyone said that at the end of a workshop; eliciting the answers from the participants is what it is all about. Sometimes rapport is lacking, the content is not conducive to interaction or the learners are distracted. At times like this you can use the delegation of facilitation to involve people and to show everyone that you don’t want the session to be about you as the facilitator.

A simple thing is to get participants to read a sentence/paragraph from the workbook. Here’s a neat way to do it:
1) Ask “Who in the room has a great radio voice?” The participants will usually nominate someone.
2) Say to the willing volunteer “A great way to improve your speaking voice is cup your hand to your ear.” Demonstrate, while simultaneously changing your voice to that of someone with audible gravitas.
3) Hopefully the participant will ‘ham it up’ as well. This change of state will get the other participants listening.

For a different way to create movement and intrigue, consider getting two participants to go to flipcharts at the back of the room, and note-take in isolation from each other during a session. Then you can compare what they came up with as being important, and use it as a structured debrief.

Another way that goes a bit further is to ask someone to run a case study-based activity. Firstly, ask for a volunteer (quite often, the best person to choose will be the most experienced person in the room). Secondly, whilst everyone is reading the case study, get the volunteer to step outside the room with you to learn what to do. Keep the instructions simple. Let them know that you’ll be there if they need help, and stand at the side of the room. Every time I have ever tried this, engagement in the session improves.

Sometimes I get questions from participants about how to get a job in facilitation, and if it’s possible to run some of the session to try it out. Generally speaking, when delegation of facilitation stops being about the learner, then the true point of it is being missed. Having said that, my team get a lot of staff coming in as guest speakers now to share their current experiences and stories, which is a wonderful addition to our workshops. In return, I’ll delegate facilitation mid-session to them to help build their skill-set.

One final thought on delegating in a session: it is conceivably the ultimate form of facilitation. I might just delegate a whole day’s worth soon, just for the professional development. Then I’m off to the beach.

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