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Smooth Co-facilitation: A 7 Step Program

Co-facilitators should be sure to bring their game faces, planning and preparing is serious business
Co-facilitators should be sure to bring their game faces, planning and preparing is serious business

Two of my direct reports stood in front of the room and an argument began to break out.   I was horrified. They were supposed to be leading a training session for 12 new employees but the session quickly disintegrated into a verbal confrontation. You could feel the discomfort in the room among the rest of us as we looked on. Finally one of the trainers threw her hands in the air and then stormed out of the room, she seemed to be in tears. The other trainer looked down for a moment as if to gain her composure, then she stood up to give the lesson.  The show needed to go on; these 12 new hires weren’t just going to train themselves. Then she grinned.

“You can all relax, it was actually just a little skit we planned to show you what could happen if you don’t spend some time working with your co-facilitators to get on the same page prior to getting in front of a group.”

It was a very effective demonstration of what can happen if two people who have never presented together aren’t intentional about the way they prepare to give a presentation. Co-facilitation is an art form. Below are the 7 crucial steps in the process of smooth co-facilitation:

  1. Contracting: Co-facilitation is a partnership and the first step is simply getting to know your partner. Are you ok with your partner chiming in during portions you’re leading?  Will your partner need you to take notes on flipchart during a portion she is leading? Will you both take questions during your components, or will you prefer to have the audience hold their questions until the end?
  2. Aligning on objectives: Once you’ve gotten to know one another’s facilitation styles, now you can turn your attention to the presentation itself. What do you both feel that your audience should be able to do with the information you’ll be sharing? It’s essential to be on the same page about the end goal(s) of your presentation, or conflicts may arise when you actually map out the presentation, lesson and/or activities.
  3. Creating the lesson: Once you’ve aligned on goals and objectives, you’ll need to map out the specifics of how you’ll be able to achieve those objectives. What will be your balance between instructional techniques such as lecture, group discussions and other activities?
  4. Establishing roles: Once the lesson is mapped out, it’s time to decide who will lead which parts of the lesson. What do you expect your partner to do when you’re leading a component of the lesson? Will you both be standing in front of the room the entire time? Should the person not leading a component take a seat? Will the non-lead need to help monitor small group activities? Can the non-lead step out of the room to use the bathroom or take a phone call?
  5. Rehearse: The lesson you’ve created on paper may look very different than the lesson that is actually delivered when you begin to say the actual words. Your partner may be super-passionate about a specific topic and may take 25 minutes to explain a concept that you only budgeted 5 minutes for on your lesson plan. It’s much better to bring things like this to the surface during a practice session than to have this happen in front of your intended audience.
  6. Align on edits: Following the rehearsal, perhaps it makes sense to give your partner more time to explain a particular topic. Perhaps you realize that you’d like your partner to write comments from the audience on flipchart during one of your components. This is why a rehearsal is important, and de-briefing the rehearsal is your final opportunity to get on the same page before show time.
  7. Deliver in front of the intended audience: If you’ve made it through steps 1-6, this last step should be easy.

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