To train your team effectively, you’ll need to ensure that your facilitators are prepared to teach. This article unpacks the best practices you’ll need to create a foolproof facilitator guide.
Think back to the best training you’ve ever participated in. Chances are that what you remember most from the session isn’t the content or agenda, but rather the facilitator. The best, most engaging Instructor-Led Training (ILT) sessions are typically led by a trainer that is personable, well-prepared, and knowledgeable.
Behind most great facilitators is a great facilitator guide, which enlightens the trainer on all of the information, discussion prompts, and activities they’ll need to run an effective training session. In this post, we’ll break down the definition and elements of a facilitator guide, as well as the steps necessary to prepare facilitators for an organized and productive training session.
What is a facilitator guide?
To understand what should go into a facilitator guide for an ILT, it’s important to define what a facilitator guide is—consider a facilitator guide a resource for trainers to understand the goals of a training and how they should go about teaching the material. Creating this guide should be one of the very last steps taken in preparing an ILT, as you’ll want to ensure that it is clear on the session’s learning objectives and schedule. When executed correctly, a facilitator guide will ensure that all of the learning objectives of an ILT are addressed effectively in the time allotted for the session.
While you’ll want to spend time training a facilitator ahead of an ILT, think of a facilitator guide as something you’d be able to hand off to the trainer on the day of the session, feeling confident that they could use it to conduct the training. It should be structured, and as detailed as possible without being too lengthy. The facilitator should be able to use the guide to both prepare for the session and refer to on the day of. Overall, it should be descriptive and prescriptive, all while leaving a bit of room for the facilitator to inject their own wisdom, ideas, and personality.
Elements of a great facilitator guide
Regardless of the training’s subject matter, good facilitator guides have a few things in common. An effective guide should be clear in outlining the specific goals of the training—you should be explicit in stating what knowledge, skills, or behaviors the learner should understand by the conclusion of the session. The guide should also provide the facilitator an overview of what the learners have already studied and where the training fits into the larger learning curriculum. This will help the trainer avoid sharing redundant information and prevent them from incorrectly assuming what background information the learners have ahead of the session.
To underscore which sections of training are especially important for the learners, include timing guidelines to help the trainer stay on task. It is also beneficial to provide a description for each section of the training to avoid any confusion around the purpose of a specific discussion section or activity. Sample talking points and discussion questions (and even answers to listen for) are especially useful for newer trainers, as long as you are sure to stress that they are there as suggestions. After all, the most engaging sessions are those in which the trainer is personable and animated—not when the trainer is clearly reading from a script. Supplemental resources and learning materials (such as videos and articles) will allow the trainer to refer learners to more information whenever necessary.
Preparing the trainer for the session
To set your trainer up for success, you’ll want to make sure that they are prepared for the session. This will entail preparation sessions and even the occasional “train the trainer” class to ensure that facilitators are up-to-date on best practices. Whenever possible, it’s best to involve the trainer in session preparation as early as you can. This may even entail having the trainer help build the facilitator guide—who better than the facilitator to share insight on what should and shouldn’t be included in the guide?
When preparing someone who is new to facilitating, try partnering them with an experienced trainer for a practice session to go over the material. You may even want to recruit someone who is not involved in the training process to share their feedback on a practice session, and adjust the facilitator guide accordingly. Above all, it’s good to get the facilitator in the practice of rehearsing the session ahead of time. You’ll want to ensure that any of their questions about the goals or strategies of the session are resolved well in advance of the actual training.
Setting yourself (and your trainers) up for success
When selecting trainers for a session, you’ll want to consider a few qualities beyond their professional expertise. A great facilitator is someone who is naturally empathetic and patient with people in new situations. They should be adaptable and accommodating—willing to look beyond any preconceived notions about their learners’ abilities or performance during the training. In reality, these leadership characteristics are more important than the trainers’ subject knowledge. The trainer can always defer technical questions to another expert in the organization.
In addition to setting trainers up for success with each ILT, you’ll want to take steps toward creating a template guide for yourself. Spend time designing an editable template that is clean, simple, and easily readable. You should break up content sections with varying colors, an agenda table, and headings that render the template clear and easily scannable. With each ILT, gather detailed feedback from the trainer on what aspects of the guide need to be clarified or improved—and use that information to make changes to your template. This process will allow you to refine your guides over time, providing better facilitator guides with each new training.
To learn more and get started creating your own facilitator guide template, download this sample guide.