What is Facilitation, and What is its Purpose?

What Is Facilitation?

Facilitation is one of the ways trainers help learners to gain, recall and utilise various skill sets and knowledge. The purpose of facilitation is to reinforce new content or abilities by interacting with others and using the new information. This concept contrasts with a presentation where learners must listen and absorb material without the opportunity to learn through interaction.  

Facilitation is led by a trainer or guide who introduces participants to content and encourages questions. The experience also contains trainer-led discussions and tasks to enhance learning.  

Throughout facilitation, participants solidify their knowledge by completing various learning objectives. It is vital that the guide who is involved in facilitation creates a safe space in order to promote active participation. At the same time, a leader should help to steer learners toward the planned learning outcomes.

How Does Facilitation Work?

Facilitation works by a facilitator guiding a group to come together and invest their individual abilities to create solutions to issues or grasp critical components of a concept through participation and discussion. The group will change their focus from “I” to “We” during the course of the interaction. The workshop environment is frequently a successful arena for facilitation. However, facilitation can take place in other settings as well. It can function in any situation where a group comes together to collaborate and achieve a goal.

What’s Involved During Facilitation?

Effective facilitation involves a number of elements created by the facilitator to encourage participation from all group members while remaining focused on a specific goal or result. 

1. Guided Conversation

Participants will have ample opportunity to discuss the relevant topic, problem, or situation. The facilitator will ensure that time is shared equally and that all participants have a safe space to be heard. Keeping conversations on topic is often achieved through thoughtful or creative questions. The facilitator will not insert their own bias into the conversation or attempt to solve problems or respond to questions for the group.

2. Activities and Exercises

Often, facilitators lead the group to participate in various exercises to help bring about the sharing of ideas, discussing multiple components of the issue, and finding a solution. These may include but are not limited to, 

  • Icebreakers 
  • Roleplay 
  • Games 
  • Energisers 
  • Idea generation

A facilitator may initially use methods that are familiar to the group members, especially at the beginning of a session, to help participants relax. 

3. Decision-Making and Goal Setting

Throughout the process, a facilitator will encourage group members to create goals or finalise decisions so the participants will continue working together after the facilitation session is over. 

Benefits of Facilitations 

Facilitation allows group projects to be productive and relevant. There are several benefits to facilitation, which include, 

  • Psychological Safety– Group members have a space free from ridicule where they can share ideas, which will grow as other members contribute their perspectives and opinions. 
  • Total Group Participation– Because the facilitator will draw out quiet or less confident members of the group, the project will benefit from the wealth of knowledge each member possesses. 
  • Group Buy-In– Members of a group will make deeper emotional investments when they sense that their thoughts are essential. 
  • Structure and Focus– The group will accomplish more if members remain on task. Additionally, members can plan follow-up activities and set goals to advance their situations. 

What Makes Facilitation Different From Regular Training?

Facilitation focuses on creating a functioning and invested group that can discuss and problem-solve. It differs from other training since the process demands more than absorbing information from a presenter.  

The presentation form of training is often called “Sage on a Stage” because the emphasis is on the presenter and gathering wisdom they share.

Facilitation is often described as a “Guide on the Side” since the facilitator’s role is not to lecture but to encourage cooperative efforts among all participants. Enhancing the group dynamic and impartiality is vital as the facilitator supports the learners in solving problems and completing tasks.

Key Differences Between Facilitation and Training

Aspect Training Facilitation
Purpose The primary purpose of training is to increase knowledge or skills and ensure competency in a specific area. It is often more structured and goal-oriented, with specific learning objectives that trainees are expected to meet by the end of the session. Facilitation, on the other hand, is mainly focused on guiding a group to achieve their own outcomes. It is less about imparting knowledge and more about enabling participants to explore issues, generate solutions, or improve group dynamics.
Method Training typically follows a more formal and structured approach. Trainers use materials such as presentations, handbooks, and online modules to deliver content. Training is often instructional, with a clear agenda and a defined start and end. Facilitation is less structured and more flexible. A facilitator provides processes and tools to help participants engage in productive discussions and decision-making. The facilitator’s role is to support the group’s process rather than to provide expert knowledge.
Interaction Interaction in training is usually more unidirectional, from the trainer to the trainees. While there may be interactive components such as Q&A sessions, workshops, or group activities, the flow of information is primarily from the expert (trainer) to the learners. In facilitation, the interaction is predominantly multidirectional among participants, with the facilitator encouraging dialogue and participation from everyone. The facilitator’s role is to foster effective communication, help resolve conflicts, and ensure that the group works collaboratively towards shared goals.

Illustrative Example of Facilitation

At Essemy, we have multiple facilitation workshops available. Below is an illustrative example of our session on “Developing a Strategic Business Plan”, with facilitator Guy Sanders, specialist in Strategy & Business Planning.


The overall purpose of this session is to create a strategic business plan that is practical and actionable, and serves as a roadmap for business growth or redesign. This involves aligning the leadership team on the direction of the business and ensuring that everyone involved is steering towards future success. The pre-workshop phase helps tailor the session to the specific needs of the business, ensuring that the facilitation is highly relevant and focused.


Pre-Workshop Preparation:

  • Key Priorities and Vision Identification: Before the workshop, the business owners or leaders identify their key priorities and future vision. This step is crucial for setting the stage for the workshop and ensures that the facilitation is customised to address the specific aspirations and needs of the business.

During the Session:

  • Facilitated Discussions: The facilitator guides the owners, leaders, and relevant team members through a structured business planning agenda. This includes discussing various strategic elements such as the business’s value proposition, SWOT analysis, critical success factors, and action plans.
  • Engagement Techniques: The facilitator employs various tools and techniques to foster engagement and ensure active participation from all attendees. This could involve breakout sessions, brainstorming activities, and strategic voting methods to prioritise actions.

Post-Workshop Documentation:

  • Strategic Plan Documentation: After the workshop, the outcomes discussed and agreed upon are formally documented into a strategic plan. This document serves as an actionable guide for the business to follow, aligning all activities with the strategic direction agreed upon during the workshop.


Pre-Workshop Interaction:

  • Individual Contributions: Key stakeholders contribute their visions and priorities individually, which are then synthesised to form the basis of the workshop content.

During the Session :

  • Collaborative Interaction: The workshop is characterised by collaborative discussions where every participant is encouraged to contribute their insights and feedback. The facilitator’s role is to ensure that all voices are heard and to manage the flow of the discussion, keeping the team focused on constructive and strategic outcomes.
  • Decision-Making: Group consensus is a major focus, with the facilitator guiding the group to agree on specific strategies and actions. The facilitator helps the group navigate through complex discussions, aiding in the decision-making process without imposing personal opinions.

Post-Workshop Interaction:

  • Feedback and Refinement: Participants may be asked to provide feedback on the documented strategic plan and engage in further discussions if refinements are needed.

Topics and Materials

Topics Covered Include:

  • Definition of business outcomes, identification of key stakeholders, agreement on performance metrics, and development of a unique value proposition.
  • Detailed analysis (SWOT) and planning sessions focusing on leveraging opportunities and mitigating risks.

Materials Provided:

  • Strategic planning tools and templates which facilitate the discussions and help in documenting the outcomes.

This structure leverages facilitation to not just guide a group through a structured agenda but to actively engage them in creating a strategic direction that is practical and tailored to the business’s unique challenges and opportunities.

Facilitation is one of the best ways to strengthen your company. If you would like to learn more about how Essemy can help facilitate greater success, feel free to contact us.