“Can facilitation still be magical when conducted remotely?” is a question that was first considered when telephone coaching circles were set up in the mid-1980s but has never been more pressing given the challenge we face with lock down and furlough caused by COVID-19 in our critical industries today.
In some cases that I have witnessed in the last few years the more pertinent question would be “is the facilitation that we deliver face to face effective and efficient, never mind magical?”
So, in this article I would like to redefine what is meant by ‘Magical Facilitation’ in the context of adult accelerated learning within organisations and understand what we would need to change to improve both face to face and remote facilitation sessions using the technology at our disposal in these times of exponential change.
Adult Accelerated Learning
Latest research in neuroscience has found that adults learn best when they have a rich array of learning options that utilise all their senses and that this needs to be considered when planning face to face or remote facilitation.
Adult accelerated learning [AAL] brings together a multidimensional approach, engaging the participant on emotional, intellectual and physical levels to help them create new knowledge rather than absorb new facts, data and information. Approaches need to include activity-based learning more than presentation-based information. So how can we engage the participants in a physical activity that allows experimentation with the new information to generate new learning?
A highly-skilled facilitator would typically follow this cycle:
- Data should be extrapolated and displayed as information
- Information should prompt a call to action
- The execution of the actions leads to experimentation
- The results of experimentation provide knowledge [results]
- Constant experimentation can lead to wisdom, but only if lessons are learned and reflected on each time and experiments leads to results [anticipated or unanticipated]
Whilst the cycle above is positive and critical for both adult learning [andragogy] and child learning [pedagogy], there are critical differences in how facilitated sessions should be planned.
What is magical facilitation?
I have spent the best part of 35 years studying the techniques, methods, models and trickery required to create magical facilitation, learning more from my failures than successes and here are my top tips for magical facilitation to test your face to face and remote facilitation sessions against.
Let’s take magical as a start point, not in the mysterious sense but in a practical sense. A magic trick has three core elements supported by a few essential assumptions.
- The Pledge
- The contract between the magician [facilitator] and the audience [participant] that I will show you something astounding if you agree to focus and pay attention.
- The Turn
- The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary
- The Prestige
- The sequence of events and illusions that create excitement, engagement, focus and astonishment leading to wonder and, hopefully, INSIGHT!
Always remember that, like magic, facilitation is a nuanced skill and needs constant practice to develop the required sleight of hand. Here is my 7-step guide to providing effective facilitation:
- Facilitation is different to teaching/lecturing.
- Remember we are helping participants create knowledge rather than absorb it
- You must read the group
- Listen and look more than you speak and perform
- You must be neutral
- The approach or information you are disclosing is neither or good or bad, it is an option to be evaluated
- Ask good questions
- What is a good question? Easy, something you don’t know the answer to. Let me give you an example. Have you been ever been asked a technical question by a clever participant who is intent on proving just how clever they are? Admit you don’t know if you don’t and add “and why is that XXXX so important to you right now?”
- Show vulnerability and create a safe place to learn
- Demonstrate your willingness to learn by accepting feedback and modify your approach to create Trust
- Set triggers and time for reflection
- When will you provide a thought-provoking moment and stop to allow participants to think and generate Insights, new knowledge created by the smashing of ideas together?
- Be a role model for continuous learning
- Change session 2 based on what YOU learned from session 1 and make it clear and obvious that you did so
So, can facilitation still be magical when conducted remotely, or is that just an illusion?
When done well, the answer to both questions must be yes!