Staying focused in facilitation – yeah, right!

The importance of knowing what’s going on around you as a facilitator

Not long ago, I ran a ‘Facilitation Master Class’ for staff of a key client in Victoria. One of the topics was ‘trends and changes in facilitation.’

It was an interesting area for me to reflect on, thinking back to when I first started using facilitation in my work roles well over 20 years ago.

My first insight was that facilitation still relies on a strong ability to observe what’s happening around you, understand clear signals and adapt. I was tested on just prior to delivering the program…

It’s all happening – maybe too much…

I needed to be in Melbourne early on Monday morning for the Master Class. I’m based in Perth and was flying in from Adelaide after a weekend assisting with a Citizens Jury consultation process (involving 350 randomly selected people – how hard can that be!).

My best option was to fly to Melbourne Sunday night, arriving around 10.00pm. Clearly, getting to my accommodation was a high priority for me. Whilst still in Perth, I check the website of the motel I’d been booked into, so that I could call them to check and arrange a pick-up via their airport shuttle service. I’m busy, a tad anxious and distracted.  Ahh – the Best Western Airport Motel in Melbourne, 9333 2200, I’ll call them just to check…

The distracted conversation

Wonderful Receptionist (WR) “Hello, this is Acacia Hill, how can I help?”Maintain your focus

(AH) “Hi it’s Andrew Huffer here, I’d like to check that I’m booked in for Sunday night.”

(I hear giggling on the phone, I’m still looking at the website and I’m still in Perth.)

(AH) “And I’d like to arrange a pick-up from the airport, do you still do that?”

(Giggling has now turned to outright laughter).

(WR) “Well, not usually from the airport…”

(A semi-dead brain cell reignites at this stage…)

(AH) “Oh – you said the Acacia Hill didn’t you…”

(Brain cell now reminds me that I’m in Perth and have rung a Perth- based number, not the Airport Motel in Melbourne. The Perth-based number just happens to be the Acacia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre!)

(AH) “That’s kinda funny isn’t it?”

(WR) “Yep – that’s why I’m laughing…”

My insights

  1. Sometimes, no matter how obvious the signs are, when we’re under duress, we’ll often ‘drive on regardless’
  2. We need to be looking for clues as well as listening for clues that something may need to change
  3. Asking a simple question – either of yourself or the person you’re engaging with can make a world of difference
  4. Be mindful of where you are and who you’re engaging with – often our lives become a blur and we need to simply slow down
  5. Enjoy the humour of being human!


A big thanks for the photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash
(BtW – it’s not me!)
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Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer has over 25 years experience in working with organisations, businesses, managers and communities and at a state, national and international level. He designs and delivers specialist engagement processes, with a focus on facilitating open decision making processes and skill development of clients. He has delivered presentations and workshops at a number of state, national and international conferences.

Reader Interactions


    • Andrew Huffer says

      Thanks Bevan – yep the ‘drive on regardless’ is a great quote! (With thanks to Georgie’s old motor mechanic -“If you hear any noise from this car, drive on regardless!”. Not sure how wise those words really were…

  1. Karina says

    The 5 tips are excellent for facillitation (and Life) – for sure. The other thing that comes to mind for me when reading your hillarious anecdote (sorry laughing with you not at you) is the need to check for semiotics. As you suggest – ask a question to ensure your interpretation of a word/term is the same as anothers and to check behaviour that does not seem consistent with the response you were expecting – in this case belly up laughter in the back ground. I’ve been the instigator of this type of reaction on may occassions – its good to be human.

    • Andrew Huffer says

      Thanks Karina – looks like we share the distinction of making others laugh unintentionally!

      Top insights as always and thanks for your wonderful support – it’s super appreciated!!



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