The value of using stories in facilitating training

Many hard-core facilitators work on the mantra that you always need to have a neutral position in relation to the topic or issue that you’re working with a group on. This is certainly the case with stakeholder work, but is not necessarily the case when it comes to facilitating training.


Because the focus on being neutral means you won’t add any value for the groups you’re working with. Sure, you’ll reach some workshop outcomes, but when there is a time that they really need direction you need to provide it.

If you’re facilitating a training session and the group looks for some directed assistance, be clear on how you can help them. Use statements like, ‘From what I’ve seen, this is where I think you’re situated. Other groups in this position have tried A, B, or C. Which of these might be useful for you?”

To be able to do this, participants need to trust you. They need a sense of who you are and where you’ve come from. How is your experience relevant to them and how will it add value.

The swivel point – use stories

A simple way to build some basic trust at the start of a workshop is for people to know your story. Story in facilitation of training

People make connections with people. If you want a group to stay with you they need to feel some kind of connection with you – a way for them to think, ‘yep I know where you’re coming from’ or ‘I’ve felt something similar to what you’ve felt.’ Improving the connection with your group gives them more reasons to trust you.

As part of your introduction, tell a brief story highlighting what links you to the group, the local area or the topic covered. I’m not suggesting that the whole workshop is about you, or that you turn it into a public therapy session, just show a brief glimmer of your human side.

Example of using stories

Here’s an introduction from training workshops on presentation skills run with the Victorian Blackberry Taskforce…

“I remember having a love-hate relationship with blackberries as a kid. I loved the beautiful, sweet and intense flavour of blackberry jam that my mum used to make. But I hated being used as child labour to pick the buckets of blackberries needed to make the jam. Coming home cold, purple and covered in scratches was not my idea of fun. Clearly I hadn’t understood the ‘no pain, no gain concept!’ “

The important part of this story was to make a transition to the topic by saying, ‘But now blackberries appear to be only associated with pain and today we’ll work on improving your ability to get people to understand what this pain really means for them.’

Think of ‘your story’ and how it will connect you with participants to build trust.

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.

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