For youth work professionals, delivering structured program activities and facilitating groups and workshops are common tasks. To help you do this effectively, we offer tips and resources below. Be sure to visit Teaching Techniques for more on facilitation.
Prepare Your Training Space
Preparation for a successful training includes thinking about how the room will be set up and minimizing technical glitches.
- Using round tables or tables arranged in a U-shape will stimulate participants' engagement.
- Whenever possible, check your audio-visual equipment in the training room ahead of time to be sure everything works.
- Come prepared with a plan B, in case equipment does not work, the Internet connection fails, etc.
Consider Different Learning Styles
Some people learn best if they can use their hands or move, and most respond to variety.
- Provide toys that can be manipulated, such as play-doh, pipe cleaners, squeeze toys, slinkies, etc.
- Use the wall space to create stations (posting large sheets of butcher paper or a "sticky wall") to allow participants to stand up and move around.
Mix It Up: Pairs, Small Groups, and Full Group
Again, variety is key to participation. When dividing your participants into groups, consider what you are asking them to do and match the size of the group to its function.
- Pairs or small groups work well when participants are just getting to know each other or are being asked to share personal experiences, or when you want all participants to have a chance to talk.
- Small groups work well for practicing skills.
- Full group discussions are useful for introducing a topic, bringing closure to a topic, and allowing group members to get to know each other and build upon the ideas shared.
Handle Disruptive Participant Behavior
One of the most challenging aspects of training or group facilitation is effectively managing difficult behaviors in the group. Managing disruption requires good communication and facilitation skills. Here are suggestions to help you deal with common disruptive behaviors and challenging situations.
General Presentation Skills
When facilitating, how we use our voice, place ourselves in the room, and use body language can help or hinder a presentation. By using these skills in a competent manner, we can create an engaging and respectful learning environment.
Facilitators might use these skills intuitively, without being fully aware of them. Although presentation skills are most often associated with public speaking, in reality all facilitators working with groups are engaged in public speaking. To learn more, watch the videos on Teaching Techniques.
As facilitators, we use a lot of newsprint! Make sure you use those flip charts to advantage:
- Use blue, black, and purple markers (bold, dark colors) with broad tips for best visibility.
- Use water-based markers so they do not bleed through the paper.
- 6 x 6 rule: no more than six words across and no more than six lines down, per page.
- Use pictures or diagrams only if they are large and simple. For complex models or graphics, use handouts and slides rather than drawing on newsprint.
- Have a co-trainer scribe for you whenever possible.
- Use bullets with key words or phrases to summarize or outline a topic.
- To preserve valuable discussion time, type up the group's input and hand out copies at the next session.