3 Tips to Facilitate With Confidence (even when you’re not an expert)


Have you ever been asked (or instructed) to facilitate a training session, and you’re NOT the expert in the room?

I think we’ve all been there at one time or another. It’s easy to let the nerves or negative self-talk take over – a little too easy, right?

How do you project authority on the topic, even though the audience is likely more knowledgeable than you are?

I was asked this question recently as a contribution to a blog post, but I thought it was worth sharing here as well. As a presenter, you are looked at as an expert. When faced with wading through content that is unfamiliar, I would suggest three things to facilitate with confidence:

1. Stories are more memorable than facts.  Sure, storytelling is a fine art, but it’s one that can be mastered. When you are faced with facilitating a session that is outside your scope of expertise, look for stories that support the facts you are presenting. Find an example. Find a success story. Find an organization that is doing something interesting that you can share with the group. It’s easier for you to remember what ABC Company did than it is for you to learn 1001 things about a subject (that your audience probably already knows).  As you share the story, point out the relevant, key facts that align with the topic.

2. Throw it back to the group.  This can be an effective way to make a presentation interactive, but also a very easy way to take the focus away from the facilitator! After sharing your key points (with or without looking at your notes!), ask a reflective or discussion-based question. Give the audience a few minutes to discuss. Depending on the size of the group, the setup could vary. For a very large group, it could be a discussion with the person sitting next to them. For smaller groups, you could break into small teams or table groups.  After discussing, debrief: ask for volunteers (or everyone, depending on the audience) to share their thoughts.

3. Start and end on a strong note. Kick off the session with a strong introduction. End with a memorable point or tie back to your objective. Reinforce the benefit of what you’ve shared. It’s critical that participants walk away with a solid final thought about the content – and about you.  Most importantly, have confidence as you welcome, present and close!


Tweet: A facilitator who exudes confidence will always have more credibility than one who lacks it.

Your turn: Have you ever facilitated a session where the audience was more experienced or knowledgeable than you were? How did you overcome the challenge? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Know of a facilitator who would benefit from this post? Be kind and share it!

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3 thoughts on “3 Tips to Facilitate With Confidence (even when you’re not an expert)

  1. Christa says:

    I really liked this post, Michelle. It reminds me of my work mantra – “Fake it ’til you make it”. I find myself learning new skills and open to trying new things… and nobody else knows I’m faking it. Thank you!

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