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What Is a Facilitator?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 16, 2024

A facilitator is a person who coordinates and runs a meeting or event to make it as effective and efficient as possible. In the business world, facilitators can handle retreats and conferences as well as regular meetings. They can be particularly useful if there are concerns that not all the members of a group will be heard, or in settings where contention or argument could arise. Facilitators may, for example, mediate in a dispute between colleagues to help them achieve a resolution that will satisfy both parties.

Some companies keep one or more facilitators on staff to handle the organization of various activities for the company. The facilitator is neutral, and works solely to establish communication and keep communication open and effective throughout a meeting. In some cases, an outsider may be more effective, as this person will have no knowledge of company history, and also lacks a vested interest in any particular outcome.

The facilitator can arrange the space, plan the timing of the meeting, and copy materials for distribution and discussion during the meeting. Facilitators can meet with all parties privately before the meeting to discuss their goals for the meeting, and may consider this information when they provide advice and assistance during the proceedings. The goal is to make sure that everyone leaves the meeting feeling satisfied, whether they achieved all their goals or had a chance to be fairly heard. This person may act as a chair or may sit by and step in if necessary, but can otherwise allow people to run their own meeting.

Parties to a meeting can request the services of a facilitator if they feel it would be beneficial, and in some cases a company may order that one be used. In cases where a third party is necessary, the company can choose from a variety of private firms that specialize in facilitation services. Some firms may offer services for particular kinds of meetings and issues, ranging from software development to resolving disputes.

Qualifications to become a facilitator can vary by industry and type of work. Many have industry experience and some may be graduates of counseling or facilitation programs. Others may have degrees in business and related fields, along with experience they can apply to meetings. Facilitation firms can train their own personnel at workshops and retreats, and some of these organizations may accept trainees from outside who are willing to pay for a course.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a SmartCapitalMind researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By julies — On Apr 08, 2012

In many business situations I think it is best to have a third party facilitator. As long as that person is trained in the area of the topic being discussed, it seems to be more beneficial.

A third party person can really be neutral when looking at a situation and trying to make sure everyone is satisfied.

Group facilitation can be challenging - especially when people are given the chance to voice their opinions and concerns.

While a known facilitator can say they are neutral in their opinions, it is much easier for someone that is unknown to step into that role and truly be unbiased.

By golf07 — On Apr 08, 2012

When I went through a divorce I joined a support group for some encouragement and guidance. We had a group leader who was very good at group facilitation skills.

She made people feel comfortable, but also didn't let them just sit there and soak up everything without contributing.

This was OK for a few sessions, but once you were familiar with the people and the process, you were expected to contribute to the discussion.

This was a little hard for me at first, and I am one that doesn't warm up to these social situations very quickly. I did find that the more I contributed, the better I felt and the healing process was faster.

I still keep in touch with some of the people I met in that group and they have become life-long friends.

I think it takes a special person to be a good facilitator in a group like that. There is a balance between compassion and encouraging someone to get out of their comfort zone.

By honeybees — On Apr 08, 2012

My daughter works as an event planner for a company and it seems like she uses a lot of social facilitation skills in her job.

Even though this was not specifically part of her job description, there is no way to get around it when you are planning meetings and events for groups of people.

She hasn't had any formal training in counseling and professional problem solving, but she has certainly gained experience in this area from her job.

She has learned you are never going to keep everybody 100% happy and satisfied. She usually has everything organized and running as smoothly as possible. When you include the ideas and opinions of many different people, you need some time of facilitator to take charge of the situation.

Usually this responsibility falls on her and it can add a lot of stress to her job. She has learned she has to be flexible yet firm when it comes to facilitating possible solutions.

By andee — On Apr 07, 2012

My college degree is in counseling/psychology and I went through facilitation skills training as part of my degree program.

These are skills that can be beneficial for many situations in life, not just in work environments. Many times these facilitation skills can be used in solving conflict between two individuals.

Many of the same skills are used whether it be a few people or groups of people. One of the biggest keys is being able to empathize with both sides and provide solutions that are agreeable for both parties.

Most of the time there will have to be some kind of compromise on both sides in order for the conflict to be resolved.

By jonrss — On Apr 07, 2012

I have a BS in psychology but I would like to get some specific facilitator training to counsel groups in a corporate setting. Where would I go to get training like that? Will I need to get an entire Masters degree or is there some kind of certification that I can get? If there is anyone with facilitator experience out there I would love to know how you got to where you are.

By chivebasil — On Apr 06, 2012

I have always thought that I would be a good facilitator because I think that there are aspects of my personality that would translate into facilitation skills.

For instance, I am a good listener and a very empathetic person. I can get along with just about anyone and am sensitive to many different situations and circumstances. Also I am great with groups. I have never been a nervous public speaker at all. Maybe I am giving myself too much credit but I can see myself being naturally good at a lot of the facilitation techniques.

By nextcorrea — On Apr 06, 2012

My brother had some severe drug and alcohol problems when he was younger and it placed a strain on the whole family. It got to the point where we decide to stage an intervention. We couldn't think of any other way for him to get help.

We were familiar with the concept of interventions but we had no idea how to run one ourselves. We ended up getting the services of an intervention facilitator who ran the actual intervention and was able to help us get quality care for our brother.

He has been clean and sober for two years now and I give a lot of credit to our facilitator. If it hadn't been for his experience I don't think the moment would have affected my brother as deeply.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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