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Global Flipchart #18

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April 2020

Facilitating in the Face of Fear: 3 Simple Steps to Engaging Your Audience

Melissa A. Matthews

Facilitators can play a powerful role in this pandemic, if we do these three simple things.

As professional facilitators, we all know that process is key to effective facilitation. The one thing that many governments — the world over — have been lacking during this pandemic is a clear, thought-out process. As a result, a large subsection of global citizens have been left feeling destabilized, uncertain and afraid in every aspect of life.If we choose to facilitate at this unprecedented time, we must do so mindfully and intentionally. Our intention must be to help to create balance in a seemingly unstable global atmosphere.

These three simple steps will help you do just that…


Be Consistent

Most people are at home in quarantine. It is a facilitator’s dream captive audience as many people are looking to distract themselves from all that is happening. They want to stay active, be it physically or mentally. They may even want to hone new skills. Hence, it is the perfect time to launch an online course or meeting group. Many of us will spend countless hours fine tuning course or coaching offerings for this new customer base and forget the really important part.

It does NOT matter what you are facilitating.

The most important part of facilitation at this time is consistency.

The sky is falling all around us and people are craving reliable connection and stability.

Regardless of what we decide to facilitate, we have to commit to showing up at the same time on the same day(s) no matter what.

Participants need the reassurance that despite the uncertainty of the times, there are things and people in their lives that will be constant— that’s us!


Create flexible content

Facilitation is about meeting people where they are.

What does that mean?

It means finding yourself wherever your audience is at this time.

At present, one thing that we can count on is that there are no shortages of media or platforms on which to facilitate or engage. Depending on your audience, you want to choose 2–3 platforms on which you can facilitate effectively. The platforms should enable you to tailor your content uniquely to the segment of your audience that you plan to engage there.

For example, you might choose to host live facilitation sessions on Facebook Live or Zoom. There, you will be able to have a real-time conversation with your audience wherein your responses and presentation will be recorded. Live and Zoom sessions are best for in-depth sessions. You could then use clips from that Live on your Instagram to engage an audience in any parts of that facilitation that you would consider evergreen content. These are the bits and pieces of your session that are timeless. Posting a clip with a question allows your Instagram audience to weigh-in on their own time.

The same information can be distilled, packaged, and disseminated through a variety of media. This allows your audience(s) to have access to you at their convenience. This level of flexibility endears us to our audience(s).


Prioritize process over everything else

It can be easy to become enamored with our desired outcomes. No facilitator walks into a facilitation process thinking “I’ll just let the chips fall where they may.” We want people to walk away with something tangible that they can apply to their lives or work. In order to achieve that, we must prioritize our process.

Focus on the steps of getting your participants from point A to point B, but detach yourself and the value of your facilitation from the actual outcome.

For example, I am currently facilitating an online drawing course for a seven-year-old. The introduction to drawing process began with what I perceived to be simple drawing exercises. I knew what every exercise should look like and exactly how much time it should take.

In our first session, my young participant was not excited about those first few exercises — she hated them — but she did them anyway. It took forever, there was a lot of hemming and hawing. Her drawings looked nothing like what I expected and we both left the session frustrated.

For the second lesson, I tweaked the process. We drew her favorite thing in the world using the skills taught in the previous session. It didn’t look anything like what I thought it might, but she was engaged. She was applying previous knowledge and by our third session, she understood how to effectively combine 2D shapes to compose a drawing.

Her drawings look nothing like what I’d envisioned when I designed the process. However, she is grasping the different parts of the process. There is noticeable growth. So, I had to abandon my preconceived notions of what the outputs and overall outcome would be because what’s most important is the process.

An effective process should be engaging your participants and there should be some sort of noticeable growth. You should not be tied to or feel compelled to define said growth. Prioritizing the process by revising it, sticking with it and allowing your participants to take away what they need from it — not necessarily what you want them to have — is paramount to successful facilitation in the age of COVID-19.

Good facilitation can be like the moon in times of crisis.

“[The moon] … is an example of practiced stability … it wanes when it must, and reliably returns to full strength … it is a humble model of reasonable potential that I can emulate, and follow.”

Terry Crawford Palardy