Attended a training session, a workshop or a conference and the person running the show is *@#^. You try to be nice and think that maybe they’re using a style that doesn’t sit well with you, or there’s some point to all this that you’re not yet seeing, but as time goes on you realise they they’re just a bit lame.
A facilitator who is too ‘ME ME ME!’, too reticent to take the reigns or is trying to be too quirky… these are all traits that have blown otherwise well-planned sessions out of the water, leaving the organisers (and participants) crying into their bamboo coffee cups at the conference. “Why didn’t we just go with Sarah, she’s so reliable” they moan, regretting the decision to employ the zany Jarred, who promised an exciting and engaging session – later realising that the dodgy Marvin the Martian tie should have given him away.
So how do you walk the line between engaging and nail-biting?
If you’re considering using a new facilitator – reference check them as you would any new hire. Make sure you ask probing questions of the referees; “In retrospect, was there anything about X’s style that may have made participants uncomfortable/unengaged?”. Think about what you’re employing them to do – a motivating talk to senior managers requires a very different person than a facilitated session for a specialist team discussing poor engagement survey responses. Talk to people who have used the facilitator for a purpose similar to yours.
My best piece of advice? When you’re at conferences and networking events take the cards of people who you find engaging, you never know when knowing a person with a particular passion for a topic of choice will come in handy.