When you facilitate an orientation, remember it’s you running the show.

Do you hold an orientation for new volunteers? If you do – and if you have held a bunch of them, you have probably seen it all.

FacilitatorI know I have. As someone who has led over 65 prospective volunteer orientations (and counting!), I remember the early days of hosting these events. Back in the day it was not uncommon to witness:

  • Audience members who dominated the conversion, leaving everyone else to shift around in their seats impatiently.
  • Speakers who veered away from their talking points, creating misconceptions about the program.
  • Presenters who droned on so long that there was no time left to cover all the material.

All of these scenarios undermined the impact of my orientation – something I could not afford, as my program needed a great many volunteers. So instead of refining my agenda or choosing different speakers, I chose to develop the one ability certain to turn things around, my facilitation skills.

If you are new to facilitation, or if you seek to hone your skills, here are my essentials.

My four favorite facilitation tips:

  1. Run the show. As the facilitator, you are the leader. Don’t give your power over to the audience or the speakers. You have the right to jump in and redirect the conversation at any time.
  2. Give your speakers a heads up. Tell your speakers what you expect them to cover and how long they have to speak, and give them a heads up that you may interrupt if time runs out.
  3. Manage the long-winded guests. If someone dominates the Q & A, it’s fine to say “Let’s hear from other guests” and direct your attention to another part of the audience.
  4. Save some questions for afterwards. If the questions are coming fast and you need to cover more material, let folks know that you are available to answer their questions individually when the presentation ends.

An Update September 2015

Practice makes perfect when it comes to facilitation skills, and I’m giving participants plenty of time to practice when I teach The Fine Art of Facilitation October 1 at the 2015 Virginia Volunteerism & Service Conference.   See the conference registration page for details.