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Advice for new facilitators


Over the years, a lot of people* have asked for my advice on becoming a freelance trainer and so, collected for the first time, here are the top five most important things you need to bear in mind:

Buy a really comfortable car

Most of the training courses you run will take place outside of your home (or office, if you’re successful enough to have one of those); that means you’ll have to travel and that means getting a car.  Yes, I know public transport is available and sometimes it’s very convenient: I don’t bother driving to venues in London or Manchester because the transport infrastructure within those cities makes getting around fairly simple (and parking is an absolute nightmare).  For most other venues, however, you’re starting to juggle trains, buses and taxis which is both stressful and inconvenient.  I don’t want to sound like Jeremy Clarkson but there really is nothing more convenient than a car.

Enjoy your own company

If you can cope with the travel, you’ll find it’s a good life but a lonely one.  Most of the workshops you run, you’ll run them on your own.  Most of the traveling you do, you’ll do alone.  That means a lot of solo journeys and a lot of time in hotels, by yourself.  A lot of meals by yourself.  A lot of waiting around by yourself.  If you don’t like your own company you will almost certainly go mad, which is bad for business.  Find something to fill the time: read books, complete crosswords, take up knitting. I did a degree but then I have poor hand to eye co-ordination, so knitting was never really an option.

Know your own mind but be prepared not to get your own way

You will find that almost everyone has a view on how you should do your job and the conditions under which you should do it.  They’ll know how much time it should take you (a two-day workshop? You can do that in a day, surely?) and how much room you’ll need (we only have this broom-cupboard available; that’s okay, isn’t it?).  They’ll dictate the times you start and the times you finish.  Hotels will want to take the easy route and may be reluctant to do little things like provide flip charts or coffee or move furniture to suit you.  You have to know what you want but remember that you won’t always get it - ultimately, the customer is always right.

Remember, it’s not all about you

People have other stuff going on in their lives; no matter how important this workshop is to you, it’s only one of a number of things that they’ve got going on.  Worse than that, this workshop that you’ve sweated blood to craft and deliver is actually preventing them from doing what they really need to do.  So, don’t take it personally if delegates are grumpy or distracted.  There’s other stuff happening, entirely unrelated to what you’re doing; for future reference, delegates often call this other stuff “the real world.”

Remember, it is all about you

Finally, remember that delegates will look to you for cues on how to behave in the training room.  If you’re lacking in energy, they will be, too.  If you look/sound bored, they will be, too.  To a very large extent, you are responsible for the mood in the room.  If delegates are quiet, it’s up to you to make them noisy.  If they’re lethargic, it’s your job to put some oomph into them.  There’s a great deal of play-acting in facilitation: you may not feel like being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 8 o’clock in the morning but you’re being paid to do it, so suck it up and bounce or find a job at which you can be miserable in peace.

So, that’s it - that’s the benefit of my wisdom.  As I said above, it’s a great lifestyle and a fabulous job.  I can’t help but feel that I’ve missed something important, though, so feel free to give me the benefit of your wisdom...


*actually, no one has but I needed an opening sentence, so I took liberties with the truth.  


One Response

  1. Can relate to that!

    Some other essential qualities include:

    1) Having a strong stomach.  As most of the food provided at training venues is not terribly exciting or appetising.  If you have any allergies, make sure that you alert the catering company beforehand.  They will probably still include a few items you are allergic to, but you might be lucky enough to have little flags on the sandwiches listing the ingredients.  And not end up in A&E or at Boots begging for an antihistamine shot.

    2) The ability to move on.  We all have good days, when we can get people to eat out of our hands and the workshop is full of energy and buzz and wisdom.  And we all have bad days, when the whole room seems to descend into gloom and sludge.  A good facilitator should be able to change the mood for the better somewhat, but even so, there may be days when you are really not proud of yourself, or of your feedback forms.  Get up, brush yourself, learn from mistakes (if any) and keep on moving.

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