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Effective Communication Skills

Good communication skills are essential when training adults. There is an abundance of resources available to provide helpful information on how to communicate most effectively with participants. These tools help develop training messages, provide facilitation tips, and offer ways to improve presentation skills for personal growth as a trainer.

The following are generic effective communication guidelines that run through the whole course and are not limited to one type of training method or another. There are three important things a facilitator can do to help create an effective learning atmosphere for course participants.

1. Support the group of participants by building an atmosphere of trust and modelling a positive attitude.
One of the most important tasks of a good facilitator is to build an atmosphere of trust. An accepting and non-threatening atmosphere encourages the expression of ideas, questions, beliefs, and attitudes by all participants. Below are some ways to build trust among the group.

• Assure that confidentiality will be maintained. Establish a group rule on the first day that everyone’s confidentiality must and will be protected so that people can talk freely without fear that their comments will be shared outside the course.

• Provide constructive and supportive feedback. Let partic-ipants know when they’ve contributed something useful and interesting to the group. For example, you might say, “That’s a very good example of the concept we are discussing.”

• Model a positive attitude. Participants will probably get tired as the course progresses and need some encourage-ment. Call upon the person appointed as the energiser and maintain your own positive attitude. Address any difficult moments during the course with honesty and constructive comments. For example, “This topic brings up difficult feelings for many; by exploring our own feelings, we can better help our clients to do the same.”

2. Ensure that the entire course content is covered.

It is important to stay on schedule and help participants see how each session follows logically from the one before.

• If participants deviate from the topic, offer to address their comments during a break.

• Write additional topics identified by participants on flip chart paper as a reminder of topics to cover if there is time remaining at the end of the session. Keep this list visible to participants throughout the workshop.

• Each session’s lesson plan includes key summary points. Referring to these key points, and reviewing them at the end of a session, will help you know if you have covered all of the main content of your lesson plan.

3. Model effective facilitation skills.

Try to remember these basic facilitation strategies throughout the course:

• Ask open-ended questions. For example, you might say, “What did you learn from the role play?” instead of “Did you learn how to ______________ during the role play?”

• Listen carefully to the communication and for any feelings that may accompany it.

• Rephrase participants’ communications accurately for clarity, when necessary, and without judgment.

• Respect every participant’s feelings, perspectives, and contributions.

• Adhere to the time schedule.

• Focus on developing skills, not just knowledge.

• Make the learning process active.

• Make the course material clear by speaking slowly and using language that is understood by all participants.

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