What is Facilitation?

Wondering if a professional facilitator is right for your organization or what to expect from a professionally facilitated workshop? Read this Q&A to gain a deeper understanding of how group or process facilitation could benefit your team or organization.

What do facilitators do?

The word for facilitator comes from the Latin word facile, or to make easy. And that’s largely the benefit facilitators provide: We make it easy for you and your group to discuss the things you need to discuss so you can decide the things you need to decide.

Check out this short video

How do facilitators do this?

Facilitators design custom processes that enable dialogue among (often diverse) stakeholders/group members, tap into the wisdom of a room and ensure all voices are heard. We take into consideration learning styles, group dynamics and thinking preferences when designing group dialogue processes. We design the process with the end in mind to ensure a group reaches its intended destination.

What’s the benefit of hiring an external facilitator?

Although many companies and not-for-profits have highly talented facilitators in-house, there’s great benefit to engaging an outside, neutral party to guide the process. Having a third-party facilitator steering the conversation allows for freer engagement and richer participation. It also prevents participants from revisiting the same familiar conversation loops. For leaders, hiring a third party allows full participation in the discussion without the responsibility of getting a group to a destination and  without the potentially negative perception of seeming to drive to a specific agenda.

I want to find the right facilitator for my organization. What should I look for?

In our blog post Bad acts of facilitation we examine some of the common complaints heard from facilitation participants. To avoid this type of experience, be sure to ask any prospective facilitators questions such as:

  • How do you ensure your facilitation is neutral (and not seen as leading participants to a pre-ordained outcome?)
  • How do you ensure participants come away with a tangible output or outcome?
  • How do you ensure your process is clear and understood by all?
  • What kind of investment have you made in skills and training to ensure your facilitation is up-to-date and follows best practices?
  • What kind of preparation do you do before facilitating a workshop?
  • What are your guiding values?

We want to hold a facilitated meeting?  What should we consider?

Call a facilitator first, and let the facilitator help you define your objectives for your meeting.  The facilitator will help you get really clear on what you’d like to accomplish, your definition of success, the needs of the group and process that will support your needs. Here’s a blog that we wrote that talks about this a bit more. 

We want to book meeting space, what should we consider?

We’re so glad you asked that question. Here’s a recent blog that outlines important venue considerations. And importantly, connect with a facilitator first – they can guide you to space that will suit your needs and theirs. Download our guide.

What credentials do you have that set you apart?

Robin Parsons

Robin is a certified in the Technology of Participation (ToP®) methodology (CTF) from the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), a global organization that’s focused on advancing human development. This is considered one of the leading certifications for professional facilitators. She was trained by Roger Schwarz, the leading academic in the facilitation field. She is certified by the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) as a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF). 

Robin also holds an MBA from the University of Manitoba, which gives her unique insight into the workings of the modern business environment.

Robin has 25 years experience leading marketing, business intelligence and strategic planning teams and has genuine ‘in the trenches’ experience. She is certified to the deliver Multi-Health Systems emotional intelligence (EQi2.0) instrument.

Dave Robertson

Dave is a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) and conflict resolution professional with over fifteen years experience. He works with groups struggling with complex problems and fragile relationships. 

He has helped teams create strategies and solutions to tackle a wide array of complex challenges. More and more, he’s called on to help groups harness the dynamics of conflict and collaboration. Dave especially enjoys working with large groups, and has facilitated and moderated events for over 200 people. Online, he takes refreshing and innovative approaches to virtual facilitation. 

Training, Certification and Techniques: Dave completed the ICA Professional Facilitator Program in 2008, and was certified by the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) in 2009. He’s also earned certifications from: 

Dave uses a selection of facilitation techniques from the Technology of Participation, Open Space Technology, BarCamp, the National Charrette Institute, the World Cafe and interest-based conflict resolution. Other training includes The Art of Hosting with the Berkana Institute.

Dave’s approach is informed by 20 years in the design and technology industries. With a background in human-centred design and design thinking, he’s led design and strategy teams and consulted with international and Fortune 500 companies.