So you are running meetups, workshops or teaching the Web, and you have been wondering what is the best way to train facilitators to help you in the long run. I will not claim that I know the best way but in this brief article I will show you a way that works well for me, I call it wave training.

In summary, this method works by training your facilitators in a series of sessions with an increasing number of attendees until all your facilitators are ready.

Suppose, you want to #TeachTheWeb by helping people learn about search terms, keywords, and how to assess the validity and relevance of web sources and you have a total of 8 people who want to help you facilitate.

Preparation (wave 0)

As the first facilitator, you should do that activity on your own without any other atteendee. This is the preparation stage where you learn at your own pace about the material you want to present.

First training session (wave 1)

Invite two people from the group that manifested the desire to help you facilitate. Go through the activity as if you're the only facilitator and they are the learners. Every facilitator is a learner at least once for a given activity. After the session is done, discuss with them the finer points of the activity and share with them your facilitation experience, what worked for you, what didn't.

Second training session (wave 2)

Invite two people from that group and have your other two people from wave 1 there. Wave 1 attendees will be wave 2 facilitators. They will go through the activity with the new learners, you (wave 0) just observe and help only if asked by the facilitators. At the end, you all form a group and discuss the activity and what worked and didn't work for that facilitation session.

Third training session (wave 3)

Invite the remaining four people and have both people from wave 1 and wave 2 present, they will serve as facilitators with the wave 2 people taking the lead and wave 1 people helping as needed. You, as wave 0 can basically drink your coffee and stay out of their way. At the end, assemble the whole group and have a conversation that span the whole experience. People from wave 1 will be able to talk about the session they were learners and the two sessions they were facilitators, people from wave 2 will be able to talk about their time as a learner and also as facilitators.

Result from wave training.

By the time the final wave is done, you have the following breakdown:

  • 1 person (you): who has gone through the material four times and is the most experienced person there.
  • 2 people (wave 1): who have gone through the material three times and are pretty experienced as well.
  • 2 people (wave 2): who have gone through the material twice, once as a learner and once as facilitators.
  • 4 people (wave 3): who have seen the material only once.

Once you start giving your workshops, you can mix people from all waves into the session so that you have a group of facilitators that have some people that are more experienced with the material along with people who have seen it only once or twice. From that point onwards everyone grows with each session.

Going through your material in waves like this makes your facilitators really experienced with it before you go live with your actual learners. This approach takes time but it really pays out well and your learners will end up thinking your facilitators are all magical people that were specially born to help solve their problems.

How many waves and how many facilitators will depend on each case. If you have only two people, you might considering doing 3 waves, one alone and one for each extra person. If the material is really complex, you might want to repeat waves so that the facilitators have extra chances to practice before going live.

Conclusion

The wave training is a lenghty process because it requires all facilitators to attend at least one session as a learner and then multiple sessions as facilitators-in-training before you actually go to teach your real learners. Even though all these training sessions might seen as a waste of time (why can't we have a single training session with everyone?) but it yelds much better results than other approachs because it is built on practice. Facilitation is a skill that is learned through practice, by giving your facilitators more chances to practice, you end up with better facilitators.