What’s the difference between a presentation and facilitation?

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Presenting and facilitating are two different roles

What is the difference between being a presenter and being a facilitator? Between a presentation and between facilitation?

Hi, I’m Shola, I’m a professional speaking coach and a professional speaker based in London and I’m going to answer that question for you right now.

Because if you think about going to restaurants and sitting down and having perhaps a two or three course meal, one way of thinking about that and comparing that to the question at hand is, are you the meal or are you the waiter or the waitress or the serving staff?

Facilitators help audience members have a better experience of the speakers at an event

Because when you are there for the meal, the meal is seen as the main course. You’ve got the dessert, you’ve got the opener, they’re your entrees. You’re really there for the meal. But you’ve got somebody who is facilitating you eating that meal by asking you, what do you want? What would you like to eat? Bringing you each of those courses at the right time and making it a better experience for you.

So of course, people will pay more money to go to a sit down restaurant where they’re served than if they have self service, they’ve got to go up and be in like a cafeteria where they have to serve themselves. And in a way, a facilitator at a meeting is like that serving person, the waiter, or waitress, the waitstaff, who is helping you to have a better experience of the speakers and the presenters at that particular event.

Sometimes there’s several presenters and one facilitator

Now, sometimes you might have a situation where you’ve got several presenters and then someone who’s facilitating the entire session. So they’re calling up the presenters. When it’s time for questions and answers, they are the one that’s going around the room saying “Any questions? Any questions for this person?”

Facilitators make sure the day runs smoothly and speakers are introduced properly

And they are making sure that everybody gets heard with their questions, making sure that the speakers are introduced properly, making sure that the day goes according to time. And also making sure that people’s opinions are shared if there’s any group discussion. So that’s the facilitator’s role. They are there to make things easier and to make sure that everybody gets what they came for from that particular meeting or event or conference.

Presenters have information to share with the audience

If you are a presenter, that’s a different role. So a presenter is somebody who’s got, maybe you’re speaking for 40 minutes, a half an hour perhaps longer, but you have something to present, some information to share with that audience. And you will typically have a block of time to make that happen.

Facilitators manage the group and try to get the best out of everyone

Now, the facilitator, when they are on they could either be like a sort of MC where they’re bring bringing people on and off and managing questions. Or it could be that there is no actual presenter, but there’s a facilitator who’s working with a group of people trying to get the best out of those people.

Facilitators ensure people contribute

So for example, in project management, I’m not a project manager, my sister is, I have clients who are, and we’ve talked about, for example in coaching sessions, how to be a better facilitator. So for example, you might be running a session where you are trying to get the best ideas out of people, or perhaps it’s the end of a project and you’re trying to assess how the project went and get lessons learned. And so your role as the facilitator is to make sure that people contribute. That people have a playing field that’s open where everybody can make a contribution. That it’s done in a timely way. And that by the end of the session, everybody gets what they need from that session.

Facilitators know to ask the right questions

So if you’re a facilitator that tends to be your role, and some people are better at it than others. So some people are very good at reading the room, seeing somebody who seems like they want to speak but they haven’t put their hands up, making sure that things stay to time rather than go over time. Some people are very good at facilitation, asking the right questions so that everybody feels they can contribute.

Some speakers may prefer one role over the other or enjoy both

And other people are better at making presentations. So they just have to rehearse their bits, get up, do their presentation, perhaps manage a few questions and then they’re done. So they are two very different roles and I enjoy both of them. I love facilitating because I like to hear other people’s views, but some people would rather share their opinion and be a presenter. Hope that helps, hope that answered a few questions for you. And take care and keep in touch. Bye.

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Shola Kaye is an award-winning speaker, author and professional speaker coach with clients around the world. Her work has been mentioned in Forbes, Harper’s Bazaar and on the BBC.
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