Dealing with Questions by Participants – Mentoring facilitators 1

I’ve been asked to mentor a facilitator who is also a member of IAF (International Association of Facilitation). I asked if it’s alright when I share the situations and feedback with you. (S)He agreed.


“Today when I was delivering a facilitative training session online, I felt uncomfortable when participants kept asking the same question again and again. And I had time pressure to end it on time. Later on when I switched off my PC, I just realized those questions where raised from an other cultural background then mine.”

My suggestions

When people in a session ask you questions, I usually DON’T give answer directly. I have to figure out, what the question is about. When people don’t understand something – easy between different cultures -, they also cannot ask a question about it. Because a question is being framed in what they know and understand.

As a facilitator, it is our task to “look for the question”, support them in phrasing their question. Several options:

Say “Thank you for the question” (saying yes on the relationship, giving you time to think – I was caught only once by a participant, who remarked: “smart way of gaining some time”). And then something like:

  • What do you mean by <repeat key word from question>”? (And if necessary follow it up with “.. and <that> is like …?” or “… and what kind of … is …. ?”)
  • What do you need or require (about < subject>)?
  • Until what point, could you follow me/us/the conversation?
  • Who also has this question? (I like this one. It involves the group) and then … “could you give a possible answer?”
  • If it’s not very urgent, I’ll come back on it later. (Write the question down. And in an on line session, I would ask: put it in the chat please)
  • ….

The general rule for a facilitator – based on Schein -: “whenever I’m supporting a client in solving his or her problem, it’s perfectly alright to ask for his or her support in doing so“.

What would you do differently next time?

About Jan Lelie

Met diversiteit kom je verder, wanneer je elkaar beter begrijpt.  Jan Lelie kan helpen. Ik faciliteer besluitvorming met behulp van mijn mind@work methode. Sommigen noemen het agile, anderen lean of serious play. Het zit er allemaal in. Daarnaast geef ik workshops en master classes aan professionals die zelf beter willen faciliteren.
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