Tip #561: What NOT To Do When You Facilitate

“Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.” Thomas Carlyle

I just audited a workshop and the experience gave me a renewed appreciation for all of the things that a facilitator should NOT do when in front of a class:

  1. Do NOT begin the training session and introduce yourself while standing behind half of the participants. Stand where everyone can easily see you.
  1. Do NOT leave any participants sitting alone and isolated from the rest of the group. Make sure that all participants are seated with 4 or 5 other people.
  1. Do NOT tell the participants that: “You will get sick of us.” That thought may not have occurred to the participants until you brought it up.
  1. Do NOT tell the participants that: “Some of this will be dry- hopefully you won’t fall asleep.” Now they will be expecting a long and dreary training day.
  1. Do NOT tell the participants that: “You guys should know this…” and then tell them what they know. Dignify their expertise and experience by asking them to explain it themselves.
  1. Do NOT ask questions that you immediately answer. After a few more rhetorical questions, the participants will learn not to bother attempting to respond.
  1. Do NOT read lists of items or activities in a singsong fashion.
  1. Do NOT provide theory without real life examples to demonstrate what the theory looks like in practice. Stories and examples increase the probability of retention.
  1. Do NOT keep participants sitting for hours on end. Brain studies show that the brain becomes saturated after about 50 minutes.  Schedule 10-minute breaks every hour.
  1. Do NOT snap your fingers at participants to hurry them up. Some might consider that to be rude and resent it.
  1. Do NOT stand with your hands on your hips when you talk to participants. It may remind them of being scolded as children.
  1. Do NOT try to get the participants’ attention by making a startling statement that is neither true nor related to the topic at hand. It will just confuse them.
  1. Do NOT answer questions asked by participants in the front of the room without repeating the question so those in the back can hear them.
  1. Do NOT use metaphors that have no relation to the content. Make sure the metaphor exemplifies similar characteristics or aspects of the content.
  1. Do NOT forget to model every activity you want the participants to perform, so they know what is expected of them.
  1. Do NOT forget to ask: “Do you have any questions?” or even better, “What are your questions?” after you provide information or give instructions for an activity.
  1. Do NOT comment in a humorous fashion that: “I can see your eyes are glazing over” and then do nothing about it. Plug in a very short energizer that gets people out of their chairs, so more blood flows to their brains.
  1. Do NOT put your entire training program on PowerPoint slides. PowerPoint is intended to supplement the training, not comprise the training. Put the text into participant manuals and limit the text on the PowerPoint slides so that there is a lot of white space.
  1. Do NOT use fonts smaller than 28 or 32 point. The text on the slide should be easy to read.
  1. Do NOT use red, brown or green print on a white background (black or blue print can be seen better), or black print on a dark blue background (white or yellow print can be seen better).
  1. Do NOT assume that all of the participants are able to clearly see and read anything projected on the screen. Check sight lines.

May your learning be sweet.


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