2021 Facilitation Summit – Keeping the Conference Vibe Alive

by Kristi Merilees, Director, Engagement + Communications

How many of you have attended a conference that left you feeling empowered, excited, and full of new ideas to share with everyone you know?

That is how I feel after attending the Virtual Facilitation Summit last weekend, hosted by the International Association of Facilitators (IAF). We went around the world in 80 workshops with workshop hosts, presenters and delegates representing all corners of the globe. I could choose to learn about “Becoming Antifragile”, “Unlocking Human Connection”, “Going Inward to Grow Outward” as well as 77 other workshop topics that were created to support personal and professional growth in facilitation techniques, creating engaging meetings spaces, overcoming challenges and so much more. By Saturday morning, I had attended eight workshops, shared space with dozens of accomplished professionals from around the world, and was inspired by multiple facilitators.

Maybe some of you are like me where you watch accomplished facilitators and wish your style was a little more like theirs. When the conference finished, my notebook was full new ideas I was eager to apply and excited to share. Surprisingly though, my notes and takeaways were less related to improving my tangible skills and more focused on identifying and understanding my strengths as a facilitator and how I could apply my own gifts and skills in connecting with participants. I was reminded that while facilitation is a skill, it is quite simply about people and how you connect with them.

Below are a few of the workshop messages that resonated with me and, maybe, they’ll resonate with you too.

Understand and acknowledge what you need to be your best self when facilitating.

  • Create quiet space to set your intentions and goals for each session.
  • Identify your triggers and how you can manage your response.
  • Protect yourself from “imposter syndrome”. Our inner voice can be unkind, and it rarely speaks the truth.
  • Recognize that facilitating takes courage; you are doing what many may never do so step boldly into that space.

Be aware of how you show up as a facilitator.

  • Appreciate the unique gifts you have and can share through your role as facilitator.
  • Identify the personae that best represents you so that you can realize your strengths and areas of challenge.
  • The Sensei, The Drill Sergeant, The Superhero, The Confidant, and The Jester (Shift Facilitation Inc.)
  • Your personae or approach has an impact as you facilitate. Seek to understand what your impact is and if you need to soften or strengthen your edges.

Your style of facilitation and connecting with people is as unique as the participants with whom you work. While we, as facilitators, may step into and out of personas dependent on our audience, there will always be people that only your style and approach to facilitation can reach. Don’t stray too far from being yourself.