A day in the life of a business facilitator – Part 2

The next 5 myth busters before you decide whether this role is ‘for you’


I remember the day well – the first time I sat in the training room as a participant, in some swanky hotel in the Thames Valley. Two things occurred to me as I was experiencing being a participant. The first was that it looked so easy to be the person at the front of the room…the second was that I figured that it was something that I could do myself one day.

Three years later, as I was contemplating that first job offer in that field, and as I sold it to myself, firstly, and then my wife (who was about to experience her new husband being away from home 3 nights a week (every week)) – it would be great on all levels….and on top of that, I could use the gym every day. For free. (let alone the money we would save as I would be eating 10 of my weekly meals at someone else’s expense).

25 years later…well, what a ride! In the first article A day in the life of a business facilitator – Part 1, I shared my experiences and busted some myths about working away from home and in this piece, the focus moves more towards the myths about working with groups of adults and life in the training (learning) room.

Continuing from Myths 1-5, here is the list of Myths 6-10….the reality of a typical facilitated session. Anything seem familiar to you?!


Myth Six: The job is easy…you just rock up and deliver the same stuff every time.

Thankfully, this is not true; the moment this becomes the case is the moment you become ‘humdrum’. An ex-colleague of mine said simply one day to me “first time, every time”….and that has stuck with me ever since. I truly have run every intervention or programme (no matter how many times I have done ‘something like that before’) as if it is the first time. This keeps me ‘in the zone’ and ‘on it’ and ready to deliver my best. Remember, your audience is experiencing it for the first time….treat it with that care it deserves and it is more likely you will be at your best.


Myth Seven: Adult learners just want to soak up the knowledge.

Hmmmm. If only! My attitude to this is to treat every person as the individual that they are, and pre-suppose that they will take responsibility for their learning. I find that this expectation in itself will influence the language that you use, and the way you expect them to contribute, and if well facilitated, the vast majority (probably more than 95%) of learners will enthusiastically participate in the learning experience (what they do afterwards is affected by many, many factors outside your control). One client once described to me six different types of participant:

  1. The prisoner – has been told to be there and really has no motivation to learn
  2. The passenger – they are there for the ride and have no intention to ‘step up’
  3. The ‘know it all’ – been there, done that, can’t be taught
  4. The mouse – timid delicate person who hates to be exposed
  5. The disrupter – who sees the training as ‘sport’ and whose aim is to make your life difficult
  6. The sponge…the dream ticket for you as they will soak up and apply what you are there to share

You get the picture….this role has its challenges! (See my article on adult learning; Leading the Adult Horse to Water  for ideas on how to handle this)


Myth Eight: You have lots of time to yourself whilst the group are doing exercises.

At-your-peril!!  This is the time where your radar needs to be on high alert; this is where the clues are as to how the learning is progressing, what the participants are really thinking, what they think of the programme, what they think of you, who is getting stuck in…who is just a passenger. It is a delight for me as a facilitator to ‘appear’ to be planning the next session, or ‘appear’ to be examining my facilitator notes……and at the same time, ‘tuning into’ the conversations, logging them mentally, and then referring to them during the debrief or in your other interactions.


Myth Nine: The client is always supportive of what you are doing.

Often, but not always. You would like to think that this is the case….but this is where you find out really how much behind what you are doing they are. Managing the client ahead of their interaction is critical to success – helping them shape the key messages of support for their introduction….and how they are ‘going to be’ is critical. At the end of the day, they are leading the initiative…they need to be seen to own it.


Myth Ten: When the work is done, it’s done.

Picture this: the day in the training room is over (say 18.00). You have a client dinner. The room needs re-setting for the following day (or you need to clear it and go to your next venue). You need to speak to the kids. You need to connect with a team member. One of the participants needs a little more input. (You wanted to go to the gym 🙂 ). You need to prepare for the following day. You need to re-work the agenda timings. You need to create more materials for the following day. You have some urgent and important emails to attend to. You need to be in the training room by 7am latest the next day to finish your preparation.

Your day, realistically, and if you are intent on being that stand-out facilitator, will start at 7am and finish at 11pm. There is pretty much no time for you in that, let alone your loved ones.

And then…when you get home (eventually)…you need to be the partner/parent/child that everyone else expects you to be.

Remember…you are always ‘on’…and frankly…it is exhausting.

The best job in the world? YOU BET!! (but never underestimate what it takes)

If you found this article interesting please share and/or comment…..and if you would like to find out more, please contact Alex Selwood at alex@expressionforgrowth.com, or have a look around our website for inspiration.

Alex Selwood