How to Facilitate a Discussion | Public Speaking | Presentation Skills

A particular Communications challenge is being a facilitator. It is not being a keynote speaker, it is not being the Pundit, it is not being the guest on a talk show.

If you have been asked to be a facilitator you need to realise what your job is. Your job is to put a spotlight on other people’s ideas, let’s different ideas come up, lets everyone have a fair hearing, keep things running on time, be the gatekeeper, and, if possible, try to synthesise the best ideas without be biased so people have a sense of what was accomplished during the panel discussion or the conference.

Part of what you have to do as a facilitator is to introduce the panelists and do it in a way which fills the appetite of the audience and makes them realise why this person was invited to be here and how they are uniquely qualified and have the credentials to be a great panelist on this particular discussion.

Once you have introduced the people speaking, you need to let them speak but you have got to watch the time so that they do not go way over their limit. Sometimes, it may be appropriate to do a quick summary of what was said, introduce the next person, and keep it going.

One person that I find does a good job of facilitating is the moderator of the TV debate show Intelligence Squared. It is not like a typical cable news show- instead it is more of a traditional debate where you have a moderator and it is really very similar to being a facilitator.

Facilitation can be a great way of bringing together varying parties who have different views. The main thing is that you want to create an atmosphere where other people’s ideas come out, not your own. It is your job to put the spotlight on others, summarise occasionally, synthesise occasionally, and create the greatest number of new ideas put out for the whole group to think about and digest.

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