Participants’ unpredictability is one reason why facilitation is needed in the first place. If everyone behaved the same way, getting to the right solution for any given problem would be so easy there would be no need to facilitate anything. Getting to the proper solution takes time, collaborative conversations, and your guidance through the muddy waters of participants’ mix of personalities.
Expecting the unexpected
While it’s common to be surprised by what a participant says or does, it’s important to never act surprised. This is something you should not only expect, but also encourage, depending on the nature of the behavior. If a participant unexpectedly jumps up and starts showcasing a previously unknown tool, it’s an opportunity for you to discover something new and potentially groundbreaking about the subject.
It’s good to have a plan for dealing with surprises because it reduces the chances of being shocked or taken off guard. If either of these occurs, the overall flow of the conversation is disturbed and it can be difficult to get the participant to begin contributing to the session again. The best tactic to take if something offensive, distracting, or otherwise attention grabbing happens is to avoid giving energy to it. Like a child screaming for attention, the more energy and attention bad behavior gets, the worse effect it has on the overall session.
Unpredictability is a good thing
Divergent behavior patterns and personalities are part of what makes facilitating rewarding in the end. When you encounter these areas of chaos, you have an opportunity to bring order to the session. Participants who are overly loud, conversational, or energetic can be used to draw out those who are quiet or timid.
Unique personalities can also help turn a session that would normally be boring or discouraging into one where all participants are engaged and provide their own content. Participants who bring energy and passion to the session not only help to inspire others, but also quickly become your best friends. These participants benefit the other members of the group and help you remain focused, passionate, and energetic. Think of naturally charismatic participants as star players in a session.