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As we go through this course you will be asked to make a list, so please ensure you have both paper and pen to hand. 

What is the skillset of a good facilitator? We are going to take a few minutes to have a look at what makes a good facilitator, and on the flip side of that what might you do that would get in the way of making it easy for people to talk to you. So having a think about good skills, the positive skills of a facilitator, some of those skills will involve asking questions, listening to the answers. What we would like you to do now is to pause this video and start thinking about making a list of what are the skills of a good facilitator.

Okay, so hopefully you have got a nice long list of what makes a good facilitator. I would expect to see some of the things that I have already mentioned to you on that list, which are asking good questions and listening to the answers. As we go through these videos, you will have the opportunity to think about what makes a good question and also what are good listening skills. Some of the other things that hopefully you have got on your list will be around setting up a good environment, so an environment where people feel comfortable, creating a safe space for people to share things with you. Some of the stuff that people are going share with you will be quite sensitive. So how would you make sure that you actually do not have people feeling uncomfortable when they are sharing sensitive information with you? So there is something there about the environment, there is something about setting up some ground rules for the facilitated session that you are going to have with people. I would also hope that on your list, you have got something about planning and organising. You can not just walk into a facilitated session and just hope that things will go well.

So what we want you to think about is, what are the objectives for that bit of facilitation that you are going to be doing. And again, we are going to give you a little model for that later. As well as the planning skills, there is getting yourself organised, getting yourself prepared. If you are not in the right frame of mind to do the facilitation, then you are not going to do a good job. So you need to think about how you are going to prepare practically, mentally, and perhaps emotionally because if you are touching on some sensitive subjects that might touch something for you. You need to be thinking on the practical level about where you are going to be doing the facilitation. Are you going to be in a big open space? Are you are going to be in a small room? Are people going to be sitting on top of each other? How are you going to organise the space?

On a practical note as well, you want to be thinking about the equipment that you are going to need. I am a great lover of having loads and loads of Post-its and flip chart paper. When you are facilitating something I wouldn't expect you to be needing PowerPoint or anything like that. So they are some of the things that you should think about and it would be really good to reflect on your list of positive skills of a facilitator. And now we are going to get you to think about some of the things that might get in the way of you being a good facilitator. So put your original list to one side, get yourself another piece of paper and head that piece of paper something like 'barriers to facilitation' and start writing yourself a list of the things that might get in the way.

So let us have a look at the list you have just created about barriers to facilitation. Some of the things that are hopefully on this list will be the flip side of what you have already put on your good skills list, the positive skills. There are some other things to think about though in terms of those barriers, and for me one of those big things is about your own stuff, the things that you are bringing with you into the room. So sometimes you will be asked to facilitate a conversation or a group who is looking at a topic that is really, really close to your heart. For example, in the work that I have done with Healthwatch Essex, a lot of the ambassadors that I have worked with have been really passionate about things that have happened to them in the social care or the health setting. So maybe they have had a really bad experience as a patient, or maybe a loved one has had a bad experience.

And as a result of that, they bring into their facilitation something which is very, very personal to them and they start talking about their experiences, which has their group then turning around and thinking, "I can't share this certain thing with this person because they are so caught up in their own emotions and their own stuff." So you really do need to think about how you can remain neutral and objective when you are facilitating. You are not there to share your story, you are there to listen to other people's stories, and that is really, really important. So if you do not feel like you can leave your stuff at the door then perhaps you should be asking yourself, "Am I the best person to facilitate this conversation?"

I think one of the other things to think about is giving yourself some time to prepare. So one of the barriers to a really good facilitated session is not preparing enough because if you are prepared then you will be ready to be there in that room, in that space with those individuals, who really, really want to share their stories with you. They want to give you their ideas, they want to have a conversation with you. But if you have not prepared, it may be that you are just not in the space to listen to them. So you have got to get your head in that space where you are really prepared to listen. So preparing, listening, if you are not ready to do those things then they are huge barriers to a good facilitated conversation.

I would strongly suggest that one of the barriers is not being able to ask the right questions. And so, going into the facilitation with some prepared questions, and we will talk about that shortly, but some prepared questions that will help get the conversation started is really good. But then thinking about you need to listen to the answers you are getting and be able to come up with some follow-up questions, follow-up questions that relate to what you have heard.

So I have started talking about some of the things that you will need to do as a result of you thinking about those barriers. As a final part to this little exercise, what I would suggest that you do is pause the video again and just think about some of the barriers that you have written and ask yourself how will I overcome those, what might I do that would help me not face that barrier or that challenge in the first place. So it is all going to come back to you. Prepare, prepare, prepare.