The main aim of the facilitative leader is to leverage the resources of group members.

Ingrid Bens
Author of Facilitating to Lead!

Before each facilitation you absolutely need to clarify what kind of role your customer expects from you. This is part of order clarification, which characterizes your professionalism in your job. That’s why you need to know the different types of facilitators.

Moderators & Guest Speakers

On the page Dealing with Resources we dealt with resource personnel and how to choose them. Once you have found them, you have to deal with their logistics. The different types of facilitators is the topic of the current chapter.

Types of Facilitators: A facilitator leading a session in a conference.
A facilitator leading a session in a conference.

Once they have seen the Workshop Plan and Participants’ List for Facilitators, you will need to ask what they need to facilitate the session (if not already incorporated in the Workshop Plan). This might include the distribution of handouts, a data projector, a flip chart or whatever. Make sure that you are able to assist them in their work as far as possible. If necessary, arrange their travel and visa. That means you will need to be in regular touch with them or their personal assistants. This could include booking a flight, sending their ticket, arranging an airport pick-up, booking hotel accommodation and transport back to the airport.

Confirm that they are coming the day before and again on the day of the event. Guide them on how to get to the venue, where to park etc. If they come with their drivers, it’s good to take care of them, too, in terms of food, refreshments and perhaps accommodation.

It is good manners to pay your due respect to all different types of facilitators, your resource personnel. This will mean that they are more likely to come again. Welcome them (delegate a person to meet them at the entrance) and guide them into the seminar room. Take care of them, e.g. offer them tea etc. Don’t forget to thank them during the workshop, perhaps with a small gift, token or some flowers. Furthermore, it is good manners to thank your guest speakers with a hand-written letter a few days after the event.

Visual Facilitator

Graphic Recording of a discussion of Freedom & Religion. Should be worked out more in detail…
Graphic Recording of a discussion of Freedom & Religion. Should be worked out more in detail…

Visual facilitation means to accompany a group process in a responsible, visual way. Process, content and results are recorded in visual language. In short, it’s a facilitator who moderates a group in a visual  way. Of course before the visual facilitator’s work the outcome of the facilitation must be clarified. The facilitator should know about the audience, the overall topic, the organization etc.

In many cases a visual facilitator will bring his own working material (board, markers, etc.). However, this should be clearly agreed upon: who has to provide what.

Prepare the group: present the visual facilitator and explain the process. Often the facilitator will do it him- or herself (also be decided upon forehand). And then – have trust in the process. Don’t intervene – now it’s his or her job to deal with the process and the participants.

Graphic Recorder

Graphic Recording is a fantastic way to capture seminar or conference proceedings in a visual way. It can enlightening to get your discussion mirror by a sketch or sometimes even painting. At a later post we are going to deal with graphic recording more in depth. Here and now only on the logistical aspect of the work: In advance you should clearly define your expectations. The Graphic Recorder should be aware of the overall theme, the session topic (if you engage him or her only for a part of the conference), the audience and the expected outcome. As everybody works a little difference ask for their preference. Usually, graphic recorders need a little space at the side of the seminar room from where they can observe the whole scene but are still close enough to follow the discussion. They require some undisturbed place for themselves. Please also prepare the audience and kindly request the participants not to disturb the recorder until his job is done.

Report Writers

A report writer is also one of the types of facilitators. For conferences and bigger seminars, a printed report is a wonderful follow-up. It can enlarge the outreach and increase the impact. Therefore, you need a report writer or rapporteur who can fully concentrate on this task during the seminar. You should look for an experienced writer, especially if the event is important. In case you don’t have a contact, you should ask other organisations whom they hired for similar roles.

Report writer should not only have access to all the documentation of the workshop so far, e.g. and especially the participants and facilitators’ list, but also have a seat well-placed to overlook the seminar proceedings.

Supporting Staff

Depending on the size and level of your event you will need people who assist you [see also Supporting Staff in Resources]. They not only cost money, but have to be managed effectively. This means that you will need to have their contact details and clarify with them if you are expected to provide travel and accommodation. It’s useful to have templates for service agreements ready. Payment on the spot and signing for received payments saves you a lot time afterwards. Experience shows that it is not only participants who cancel at the last minute: Have a list of people you could call last minute to jump in.

Once more the workshop plan helps a big deal because you can walk the supporting staff through the whole workshop. So, they know what’s going to happen next and thus can anticipate what is needed for their own actions.