Recently, after a facilitation I led, I got some feedback from a long-time co-facilitator (Sam). “Your energy was different than usual.”
“Really!?” I replied, “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Yeah, your vibe is usually pretty SoulCycle instructor. Hyped, high energy, ‘Ready!? LETS GO!’,” he explained. “But today was a lot more yoga teacher. Calm, low-key, ‘wherever you are, that’s where you’re meant to be.’”
“Really? Huh.” I felt stumped. I hadn’t felt that at all.
It’s hard to know how you’re doing as a facilitator. Helpful feedback from participants is hard to get, and when you do, it’s tough to say whether they truly benefited from the facilitation or if they’re just being kind. Even when a co-facilitator gives you feedback, when it doesn’t line up with how you saw the situation yourself, sometimes it’s just hard to believe it.
Until you see it.
In the sports world they’ve known this for years, which is why so many athletes and coaches watch their game tape. Reviewing a tape lets the players see what they really looked like on the field. Exactly what they were doing with their body, posture, positioning, and more—from a third-person perspective. They see what other people were seeing, which helps them receive coaching and constructive criticism, and grow as an athlete.
If you’ve ever watched a clip of yourself swinging a bat or taking a jump shot, you know it only takes a few seconds before it’s clear as day what’s going wrong. Instead of stubbornly repeating, “I thought I was following through,” you know for sure whether you were or not.
As facilitators, we can borrow this tried and true strategy and watch our (facilitation) game tape.
To have someone tell you, “Your energy felt a little low today,” is one thing, but when you watch yourself humdrum the words, “I’m so excited to be here,” in a way entirely devoid of any excitement, it becomes real in a whole new way.
Is watching yourself facilitate as awkward as you are probably imagining it to be?
But every bit of cringe is insightful and valuable feedback you can use to help improve your facilitation game. The juice is worth the squeeze.
Now, let’s get those game tapes and figure out the best post-game strategy.
How to Record Your Facilitation
In my last ten years of facilitation, I have rarely recorded an in-person facilitation. It was hard to get good footage, to hear everyone speak, and honestly I just never thought it was worth disrupting the vibe in the room just so I could get footage of myself.
Putting a camera in the back of the room changed the experience for participants, making them more self-aware of their phrasing, and generally clamming up a little because they knew they were being watched.
Virtual facilitation changes all of this.
Now that so many of us are transitioning to virtual facilitation, being on-camera is part of the deal. The only difference between an unrecorded Zoom and a recorded one is a little red button in the corner of the screen. After a few minutes, most participants forget about it being recorded (if it was ever a concern), and you perfectly capture the entire experience exactly as you experienced it.
The easiest way to make recording your session as seamless as possible is to take care of all the logistics of filming ahead of time. That way, when the facilitation starts, you never even think about the recording.
Tell participants ahead of time that you’ll be recording the session.
Have a quick RSVP form for the session, let participants know you’ll be recording the session, and ask if they have any concerns or questions. Tell participants what the recording will be used for (i.e. this is just for my review, this will be available to those who attend, this will be shared on YouTube, etc.) and what will be recorded (i.e. we’ll only be recording what’s shared in the main room).
Set the meeting to record automatically (if possible).
With Zoom, you can set the meeting to automatically record as soon as the meeting starts. This prevents the face-palm moments day-of when you forget to hit record. If the platform you’re using doesn’t have this function, I’d recommend setting a pop-up reminder on your computer or phone.
Once the recording is on, don’t touch it.
Trust me on this one. I have (more than once) thought, “I’ll just pause the recording while they are in their breakout rooms,” and then, inevitably, forgot to turn it back on when everyone came back and missed recording a chunk of the session.
As soon as you hit record, don’t 👏 touch 👏 the 👏 button. You can always cut what you don’t want later, but you’ll never recover what you don’t record.
Easy as 1-2-3.
Follow all those steps and you’ll have a full session saved and ready for your review. Now comes the fun part, reviewing the recording.
Before You Press Play
If a basketball player wants to know what their footwork looks like, they have to focus their tape review on watching their feet. As facilitators, it’s similarly important to know where to focus your attention before you roll the tape.
Do you want to analyze the flow and content of the session itself? Do you want to watch how you give directions? Track participants’ energy throughout the session?
Decide this ahead of time and then create a list of questions and prompts to help narrow your focus and guide your note-taking.
Recently, I reviewed a session and I decided to focus on a few key areas of my facilitation and my participants’ experience. I made two lists to guide my review. The first was what I wanted to watch for throughout the review:
- Energy (my energy, participants’ energy)
- Transitions (moving between directions–>activity–>debrief, etc.)
- Views (what participants were watching, i.e. grid view, speaker view, screenshare)
- Facilitator bad habits (repeating myself, rambling, talking when I don’t need to)
The second list was a few specific questions that, once they were answered, I could ignore for the rest of the review:
- How were participants welcomed when they first signed on?
- How was my energy as a facilitator in the first two minutes of the workshop?
- How clearly did I communicate what the session was about?
- How clearly did I communicate who I was?
- What was the energy like after the first five minutes of the session?
- When were participants first invited to interact?
Watching the Tape
When I sat down to watch my tape, I had my two lists open in a Google Doc, numbered questions up top, bullets below, and my recording open beside it so I could see everything at once.
At first, when I noticed something related to what I was scanning for, I would pause the video and write it down under that bullet.
- Nervous energy, quiet tone from the jump (Sam was right 😬)
I quickly abandoned that plan. Trying to figure out where to put the note took unnecessary time, messed up my flow, and made me want to take less notes. Not ideal.
Instead, I tried simply jotting things down as they came up and leaving the categorizing until the end. Whenever I wanted to take more than a few words worth of notes, I’d pause the video and then take a quick scan of my list of prompts and questions to keep myself focused. Good deal.
At the end of reviewing my 90-minute facilitation, I had four pages of notes and a heaping helping of new perspective on my facilitation.
Post Game-Tape Analysis
I knew if I stopped my review there, I’d never look at those four pages again. I needed to make my takeaways shorter, actionable, something I would want to review when I was planning my next facilitation.
I read back through my four pages of notes looking for themes and recurring issues and came up with six major takeaways. (If you’re curious what that final page of notes looked like you can check it out here.)
When I reviewed that final list, nothing was necessarily a big surprise to me, but because they were sourced from watching the tape it all felt so… real.
I knew how it sounded when I gave unclear directions, what confusion looked like on my participants’ faces, and how much time I wasted repeating and cleaning up confusing directions. I had seen it. And seeing it all first-hand made my takeaways feel clarifying and motivating in a completely different way than when I received feedback from participants or co-facilitators in the past.
Having watched myself once, I know that the next time I watch myself give directions, I will immediately be able to see if I have improved.
Game Tape is a Game Changer
Record yourself facilitating. With virtual facilitation, it’s accessible to all of us and easy to do.
When you sit down and watch yourself facilitate, you will see things that you’ve never noticed before, and many of them will be things you can immediately change and improve. Take notes on what those things are and boil them down to a few points to work on, then next time you have a facilitation, pull out that list and review it.
It’s the most effective improvement tool I’ve ever found as a facilitator.
Is it awkward? It can be.
Cringe-inducing? Where’s that fast-forward button.
But will it make you a better facilitator? Absolutely.