Co-facilitators play an important role in a training workshop. The most obvious benefit is that when you co-facilitate, you get a break from leading the session. A co-facilitator can also provide a familiar face when you are faced with a difficult training situation, and it is an excellent way to help new trainers get their feet wet without throwing them in too fast.
Really, the nicest part about co-facilitation is when I can tune out and check email once my co-facilitator walks to the front of the room, right?
Sadly, a co-facilitator is not a person who sits in the back of the room checking email when it isn’t their turn to present. A good instructional designer should build breaks into the lesson plan because your participants will need as many breaks as you do.
What does it mean to co-facilitate?
We should think of co-facilitators as a team. In my opinion, a team is a group of two or more people who contribute their strengths and balance their roles. Co-facilitators are a part of a whole and when one sits down at the back of the room, only half of the team is participating. Co-facilitators need to be a part of a team. Let’s look at a few ways we can support each other as we co-facilitate sessions.
Flip Chart Writer
Many activities involve participants answering questions or brainstorming ideas. The main facilitator is typically working to draw that information out of participants. The co-facilitator is in a better position to take notes on a flip chart as the group contributes ideas. This keeps the primary facilitator engaged in the session and able to react to the participants.
When an activity falls flat, or participants become challenging, the facilitator can panic. A panicked facilitator misses important information, and things can go south. Co-facilitators likely have different strengths than their counterparts and should try to jump in with ideas to steer the training in the right direction. This is not to say that we should talk over or correct each other to a point of embarrassment. Once again, we are a team.
We expect participants to be present in all ways during our sessions. What message does it send when that rule doesn’t hold up for the people leading the session? As a facilitator, you are in front of the room when your participants are engaged, and you break when your participants break. No exceptions.