Here are three pictures I found on the first page of a Google Image search for “facilitation”.
I have no idea how good or bad (or staged) these particular meetings were, but they represent what I think many people’s expectation of what facilitation looks like. I’ve been struck in the past how facilitators often have these sorts of pictures of themselves – standing in front of a group that is sitting.
Sometimes, all this may work fine. But in a lot of ways I try to avoid the notion of the facilitator spending too much time standing while others sit. I see that as a way of creating one-to-many conversation where I’m more interested in supporting more peer-to-peer conversation. I also try hard to avoid the cliche of the facilitator running around with a marker pen producing lots of flipcharts. (I also try to avoid any participant doing too much of that either). The best thing I often contribute to conferences is to hide the microphones and discourage the organisers from having too much of anyone “addressing” the whole audience. And if I end up not talking too much, even better.
One of the things I loved about some of my improv training was that the trainer played the games too, put himself as one of the players not separate from them.
Another thing, I try to cut down on is this: lots of people sitting round tables. On the whole I like less furniture getting in people’s line of sight, I think it’s a big physical barrier to openness. It’s often taken as a given that people need to sit at tables but I dislike the impact. Hey, if folks want to write notes, there are plenty of things you can lean on.
Finally here is a picture of a baby that has not been thrown out with the bathwater. Don’t take these notions as immutable.