So, here’s the news for today – I’m not a trainer. I am a facilitator. That’s not to say that I haven’t done lots of training in the past. In fact I spent three years training lots of lovely people in Nepal as a VSO volunteer. I absolutely loved it, which is probably why I ended up staying for three years not two! Most of the training I did was around language development, a whole plethora of communication skills, and disability. VSO trained me immensely well to take the leap from Speech and Language Therapist, to trainer in anything vaguely related (and lots that wasn’t). The training skills I learnt to use were participatory, as in they got the people being trained by me (the participants) properly involved.
Now I will muddy the waters as I explain that I learnt to use these participatory skills to facilitate. Alongside providing training which involved imparting all kinds of (hopefully interesting and useful) things, I started doing work with people that involved finding out what they wanted and needed, and what they thought of things. This involved getting information from them.
So, if you’re confused you are not alone, and I think this is why:
- People often do both jobs or have come from a background where they have combined the two (like moi!).
- Most trainers use participatory skills to get the people they are training involved, engaged and actively joining in with what they are learning. By this I mean all sorts of ice breakers, activities, tasks and games.
- They are quite similar to look at. If you looked through a window of a training session in one room, and a facilitated workshop in another you would be hard pushed to tell the difference.
- I think that both trainers and facilitators have a secret passion for stationary! We probably both travel around with all kinds if coloured card, flip chart paper, blue tac, sticky post it note type things, and a whole lot more in the boots of our cars.
- We both commonly work with varying sizes of group.
- To be either a trainer or a facilitator you need to have excellent communication skills, and enjoy (on some level) standing up in front of lots of people. I get a massive kick out of working with large groups.
They are actually two different jobs. The main difference is this:
A trainer imparts information of some kind to the people in the group they are working with. The group may share and discuss what they have learnt and say what they think. But essentially the information flow is trainer to participants.
A facilitator extracts information from the group; encourages them to share ideas, say what they think, feedback, discuss, create plans, solve problems, and communicate with each other. It is the participants that have the information and the facilitator has the tools and techniques to get it out of them (usually painlessly!).
See the difference?
If I was a little better with the pink arrows and artistry these pictures may have contained a few more nuances, but hopefully you get the drift!
So, although I have been a trainer, and may well be again. I am not actually. I am a facilitator (although I may teach you some facilitation skills if you ask nicely!).