The Difference Between Training, Facilitation and Presentations

I’ve been going to a lot of conferences lately and noticed that people are using the terms training, facilitating, and presenting interchangeably. And for the purposes of a conversation, it might be perfectly acceptable to use the terms in that way.

But when it comes to execution, the terms are different and the word could create expectations for the audience. For example:

Training is the action of teaching a person a specific skill or type of behavior.

Facilitation is the act of helping other people to deal with a process or reach an agreement or solution without getting directly involved in the process, discussion, etc.

Presentation is an activity in which someone shows, describes, or explains something to a group of people.

So, if I attend a facilitated session, I expect the facilitator to stay out of the conversation. If I attend a training session, I expect activities and skill practices. And, if I attend a presentation, I expect something like a lecture. I believe this is important, because audiences make the decision to receive information a certain way and when the speaker doesn’t deliver the session in the way that was expected, well…it can be a letdown. It can also be ineffective.

All three of these delivery methods require pre-work. Training is best when a needs analysis is completed. Facilitation requires gathering information about the situation or issue to be discussed. And presentations are researched. While it is possible to combine some of these methods, there are limitations. For example, when working on a presentation, it might be tempting to include some training type activities. But in many presentations, the speaker does not have access to an audience analysis, a key piece of information in the training analysis.

One of the reasons I wanted to bring this up, is because I’ve noticed a lot of speakers moving toward this combination of training/presenting and I don’t think it’s as fluid as one might think. I totally understand the concept of entertaining education and that can happen in both training and presentations. What I’m talking about is the “Let’s do an activity!” during a presentation. There are three things to keep in mind:

The activity needs to be relevant. I understand that many people like interaction so putting an activity in the presentation is well-received. But the activity needs to have a point or takeaway. Now, I’m going to be brutally honest here: I’ve never been a part of a three-minute breakout discussion during a conference presentation that yielded an epiphany. Yes, it can be fun, but there’s never enough time allocated to make the conversation effective or relevant. Which leads me to my next point…

The activity always seems to take longer than expected. I’ve seen many sessions where the speaker asks the group to take 2 minutes to discuss something. Depending upon the size of the group, the two-minute activity becomes five or sometimes ten minutes. Primarily because the speaker has a hard time getting control of the group again. It’s easy to do this type of activity during a presentation with small groups. With large groups, it can get out of control.

When you lose control of the group, you lose control of your session. I’ve seen more speakers lately do an activity then rush through a dozen PowerPoint slides because their timing is off. So, the audience misses out on information . . . because of an activity . . . that wasn’t really relevant in the first place. This can frustrate the audience because they were expecting a presentation and they didn’t get it.

As we continue to tell employees they need to own their career development, employees are going to place emphasis on the methods that information is being shared. Because they have a goal to gain valued information. And the company is holding them accountable for getting that information. So, speakers need to be cognizant that training is truly interactive, facilitation is objective, and presentations accomplish certain goals.

That doesn’t mean presentations should be boring. It means that they need to be relevant and well-managed.

Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after giving a presentation at KronosWorks 2016 in Orlando, FL