PART 2 – ROLE OF A FACILITATOR
In this section, I’m going to talk about your role as a facilitator.
You may be wondering if you need special qualifications to be one. So let me assure you right up front that the only qualification you need is that you care about the people you’re working with.
So, what is a facilitator and how’s it different from a teacher?
Well, a teacher is typically considered to be an expert in a subject, imparting information and providing the answers to their students. Often this is done through lots of lectures and reading assignments.
In contrast, as a facilitator, you’ll help participants discover the answers for themselves through talking with each other and fun activities. The good news is you don’t have to be the weight loss police, and your job isn’t to fix people or to have all the answers.
Instead, you have 4 easy functions:
- Follow the script in the Facilitator Guide
- Allow participants to share
- Watch the clock, keeping in mind the time allotted for each activity, and
- Bring the group back when they wander off topic
Sounds simple, right? It really is! Now, let’s take a closer look at these functions.
Function 1. Follow the Script in the Facilitator Guide The Facilitator Guide is your easy-to-read script for each session. It flows very naturally and requires very little pre-planning and set-up. Most facilitators need only about 30 minutes or so.
Here’s a sample page out of a facilitator guide.
The words written in bold text are the words you say to the group.
The words written in ALL CAPS are notes or cues for you. You don’t read these out loud.
You may feel uncomfortable with the idea of just reading a script, but it’s important that you follow it closely. We’ve tested it many times & it works.
Now, we recommend that you read through the script enough to get comfortable with it so you can have lots of eye contact with your participants and use a conversational voice. You want the script to feel like your own, BUT you don’t want to add to it.
If you’re someone who has a passion for health…and if you’re considering being one of our facilitators, most likely you are…then you probably know a lot about health and good nutrition. And I KNOW it’s easy to want to share ALL you know with your participants, but remember, our programs have been designed to be realistic in that we introduce concepts in bite-size pieces.
As I mentioned in section 1 of this training, we’ve found through years of experience that giving too much information too fast typically gets people overwhelmed and doesn’t encourage lasting change. But take heart, because being realistic doesn’t mean that we’re sacrificing accuracy. It simply means that not everything about nutrition and weight loss is shared during a program.
Keep in mind that your participants are on a journey towards weight loss and good health. And a journey is made up of steps so it’s important that you stick closely to the script so your participants discover what they need to know for where they’re at now on their journey.
Function 2. Allow participants to share Each session is designed with discussion points and activities that naturally encourage sharing. This is a vital part of the self-discovery process so it’s critical not to cut short the allotted sharing time.
As a facilitator, be careful not to judge, evaluate or analyze what people share. For example, if someone says, “I decided to eat an apple before my bacon and eggs this morning,” don’t tell them what they could have done better. Instead, congratulate the step they’ve taken.
It’s also important to remain neutral on points of discussion. So this means you shouldn’t heap praise on participants when they say something you agree with. Just say something like “thanks for sharing.”And guess what you should say when someone shares something that you don’t agree with? The same thing, “thanks for sharing.”
You may have participants in your group who prefer not to share or participate in an activity like reading. That’s OK---no one is required to do so.
On the other hand, when you have a participant who loves to share and they’re actually dominating the discussion, it’s a good idea to set limits.
Some discussion is done as a whole group, but most is done in small groups of three. And you’ll probably handle these situations somewhat differently.
When this happens within the large group, you can simply ask to hear from someone who hasn’t shared yet. It can also be helpful to limit direct eye contact with this person, as they often take this as a cue to speak.
Now when this happens within the small group, which is probably more likely, you can usually prevent this from continuing with good clock control, which we’re going to talk about next. But what I mean is that since the participants break up into groups of three, when a third of the allotted sharing time has passed, you can make an announcement like, “OK. We’re about a third of the way through, if you haven’t already, go ahead and let someone else share.”
Also if you have a person in your group who wants to “fix” everyone else, and you sense the giving of advice has reached it’s useful limit, you can say something like, “Thanks for the suggestions you’ve offered. Now let’s go ahead and move on.”
And lastly, with the focus of this program, conflict between participants is rare; however, if there are differing opinions between participants, don’t try to resolve them by taking sides or forcing agreement. Simply say something like “It looks like we have different opinions on this, but we need to go ahead and move on.”
Function 3. Watch the clock If you keep on-time, each session lasts about 50 minutes, and what makes these programs so enjoyable is the small group discussions and interactions that they’re having with each other. So it’s easy to let time get away from you, if you’re not diligent.
To keep time, we recommend that you actually use a digital timer like on a cell phone. It’s too easy to lose track using the second hand on a watch.
The Facilitator Guide will show you how much time to allow for these activities, and it shows when the appropriate wrap-up warning should be given. But if your group should finish an activity early, feel free to move on. You don’t have to use all the time if it’s not needed; however, be careful not to move on simply because there’s a small lull in the conversation. Oftentimes the conversation will pick back up, but if the discussion has obviously come to an end, then go ahead and move on.
Function 4. Bring the group back when they wander off topic It’s important not to let unrelated questions and conversations sidetrack the session. So when the group discussion wanders off, you’ll want to bring them back to topic as quickly as possible.
Something that can easily lead the group off-track is health-related questions that you may or may not know the answer to. So what should you do?
First, you don’t want to give medical advice unless you’re professionally qualified to do so. Oftentimes, you’ll want to suggest that they check with their doctor.
Second, before you facilitate, read through the “Frequently Asked Questions” in back of the Participant Guide to be familiar with answers to the most commonly asked health-related questions. This way when one is asked, you can say something like, “In the Frequently Asked Questions section at the back of the Participant Guide, it says…” and then you can give a brief answer.
If someone asks a health-related question not covered in the FAQs, your best response might be to ask the person if you could talk with them at the end of the session. This will allow you to keep on track and on time.
Remember, one of the great things about being a facilitator is that you don’t have to have all the answers. So if you don’t know the answer, you can say, “Good question, but I don’t know. You might want to research that or check with your doctor.”
So those are your 4 easy functions as a facilitator, and I hope you can see how, by sticking to these functions, you’ll be freed up to relax and have fun with your participants.