Skills of effective facilitation

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David Weston is Chief Executive at The Teacher Development Trust, a charity that advocates for effective professional development in schools. Below, you will find guidance from David to help you deliver successful training with confidence.

Managing the room

Top tips for managing talkative groups

  • Keep to your timings and be explicit about how long staff have for discussion
  • Allocate a wall to use as a ‘parking space’. If issues or questions arise that are nonessential and potentially distracting, record them on a post-it note and stick them to the wall. If there is time, return to them at the end of the training or speak to the relevant individual/group directly after the training. You could also circulate an FAQ document following the training
  • Shuffle groups so that staff aren’t always sat within their usual teams, this will help focus participants on the topic at hand and will help prevent off-task discussions

Top tips for managing quieter groups

  • Use open questions to encourage discussion
  • Allow thinking time following questions. You can also provide a short time for discussion, this will help participants to form ideas that can be shared 
  • Allow participants to record answers to questions or reflections on post-it notes. These can then be collected by the facilitator who can share the main themes 
  • Prime groups/individuals so that they know you will be calling on them to share ideas 
  • Use a map of a room to keep track of contributions and to ensure everyone takes part
  • Positively acknowledge contributions, this is often helped by paraphrasing what has been said 

Presentation skills

Top tips for using gestures

  • Using your whole body to communicate, rather than relying on words, will help participants to form a stronger connection to the content. This means they will infer and remember more 
  • Imagine a box drawn around your head, shoulders, and waist. Use this as a boundary for normal gestures, and move outside this space only occasionally 
  • Consider how you can use gestures to emphasise:
  1. Lists and sequences
  2. Size, length, and volume
  3. Change, movement, and growth
  4. Connection (for example, ‘you and me’, ‘us’ etc.)
  5. Emotions (for example, open and honest versus tense or worried)
  • Ensure gestures are congruent with spoken word 

Top tips for pace, tone, and pitch

  • Be careful about speaking too fast, participants may miss important messages
  • Use a variety of speeds to maintain interest
  • A monotone voice is hard to listen to because it’s difficult to infer meaning and to remember what is being said
  • Preserve your voice by speaking from the chest rather than your throat

Opening a session

Be confident in your expertise: avoid saying things like “I’m not a very good speaker”, or “I didn’t really want to do this”. This will undermine your authority, causing participants to disengage and dismiss what you say. Instead, you may want to start by sharing a little about your experience and expertise in the topic area.

Where to go next?

The information in this article was adapted from The Key’s ‘train the trainer’ module, part of The Key CPD Toolkit. The module looks at the principles of effective CPD and adult learning, including:
  • Identifying the habits of effective facilitators
  • Finding solutions to difficult training scenarios 
  • Developing effective CPD programmes
To find out more follow the link below (please note, you will need to be a member of The Key CPD Toolkit to access this module): 
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