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Say It, Don’t Display It

A skilled facilitator can strike a balance between the tasks that need to be accomplished in a session and the process it takes for learners to really “get it.” There are many ways to illustrate the task/process dynamic.  Here are two of them.  If you were in a training session, which of them would you prefer?

Option #1: Painting a Picture through Storytelling

A couple of years ago, I took a walk to our neighborhood park with my daughter.  We’d walked this route dozens of times since moving into the neighborhood, with one exception.  Normally, when “we” walked, I was actually doing the walking and my daughter hitched a ride in my backpack.  But on this day, my one and a half year old daughter seemed ready to try this on her own.

Normally, it would take about 15 minutes to walk to the park.  On this day, it took us 15 minutes to go three blocks.  Every time we saw a flower, she stopped.  Every time we saw a leaf, she stooped to pick it up.  Every time she found a rock that looked a little different, she put it in her pocket.  Or my pocket.  When she found a dandelion that had gone to seed, she gently brushed her hand over it and watched on with joy as the seeds floated away.

For the first several blocks, I tried to keep her moving along so that we could get to the park and have fun.  Once I even picked her up to keep her moving.  She screamed.  I put her back down.  As I watched her, I saw someone exploring a neighborhood full of flowers and leaves and rocks and dandelions for the first time in her life.  While I had long-since taken all of these things for granted, she was experiencing this walk under her own power for the first time.  I stopped trying to hurry her up and get to the park so we could have fun.  I was a bit nauseated to realize that the old cliché about it actually being about the journey, not necessarily the destination was actually more than a cliché.

It hit me all at once.  Watching my daughter, I learned a very important lesson about group facilitation.  Even though I may have talked about the topic many times and it’s long-since lost its novelty for me, when I train groups I need to keep in mind that they’re often experiencing the subject and content for the first time.  I need not hurry from point to point in order to tell them everything they need to know.  Rather, I need to give my learners adequate time to explore and play with the content.  I had a whole new respect for the task/process dynamic.

Option #2: PowerPoint

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Next slide please…

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Oops.  I think you went backwards.  Can you advance the slide, please…

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Next slide please…

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Next slide please…

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Why do presenters insist on burying some amazing stories underneath a pile of slides, generic templates, graphs and clipart?

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