Co-facilitation and what you need to know to make it work

Anytime you are in a situation where you have to present with others you run the risk of looking like it's amateur hour. I remember a situation where I wish I'd never been in the room.

I was co-facilitating a two-day high-performance coaching workshop for the New Zealand Police, as I had done successfully for the past five years.

Due to growth, the company I worked for had engaged a new employee and I had been assigned him as a co-presenter who was supposed to be trained up by watching me and having some small parts to facilitate himself.

I asked him to sit at the back of the room and observe, halfway through the morning he decided he would sit up the front, he also decided it would be a good idea to come and talk with me when I gave the participant's group work.

During this time he decided it would be a good idea to share his insights into what he perceived the audience was thinking and feeling towards me, accurate or not his persistent interactions with me caused me to begin to believe something that wasn't actually true.

It's a situation that was not helpful and left me shaken and confused for a while and it wasn't good for the client either.

I've seen people undermine each other, ridicule each other, loudly talk to people in the audience while their co-presenter is trying to speak. I've seen co-presenters shake their heads as their fellow presenter tries to stay focused.

It doesn't have to be this way, below are some simple guidelines for co-facilitation, co-presenting, and co-pitching.

Let's dive into it...

Before your presentations have a walkthrough, discuss, and agree on what your approach to the presentation will be, who will be doing what, where you will sit, and what you need from each other to make your presentation a success.

Support each other and give each other encouragement when running through your presentations together.

Decide on how you will dress as a team: professional, business casual, or casual.

Agree on a PowerPoint template & style to be used by all facilitators, this will ensure consistency and seamlessness. Create this with input from all presenters.

Think about the needs of your audience

The recommended time span for effective adult attention is 15-20 minutes. When planning your presentations discuss how you will effectively deal with this when you have three presenters and they have twenty minutes each?

Bear in mind, for the audience, this will be one hour of sitting and listening. Don't get sucked into believing that the change in presenters is enough to be engaging, make sure there is a state change of some sort between presenters.

Consider what each presenter's strengths and weaknesses are and how this information will help with deciding on who will present in what order - this requires honesty.

Choose a power person/rapport builder who will lead the group; open, close, manage group dynamics, state changes, and audience energy levels (this is not necessarily the most senior person presenting).

A power person/rapport builder is: outwardly friendly, engaging, naturally charismatic, comfortable with groups, open & inviting, can warm the audience and relax them, sometimes appropriately funny

If you’re only working in pairs, have your power person open the session and briefly close/wrap up the presentation. Remember the most memorable parts of a presentation are the beginning and end.

Set a timeframe for each piece of the presentation and follow it. Have your co-presenter signal you on time remaining such as “you have 5 minutes remaining”.

Agree on prearranged hand signals for: time, get a move on, they are dying, pick it up, slow down, breath, more volume, speak louder, I can’t hear you at the back.

Keep an eye on the audience and monitor their behaviour: interest points, lack of interest points, when their energy starts to deplete when they’re fidgeting or moving in their chairs if they start to talk to each other (this may be an opportunity for the presenter to incorporate a group discussion)

This is all great feedback for the presenter to consider for making changes to include in their next presentation as long as it's delivered in the right way at the right time.

Avoid engaging in conversations with the audience when your colleague is presenting. You’re there to do a job and look after your co-presenter. If you start talking, others will think they can do the same.


Discuss what your development focus is, such as delivery style or content cohesion.

This allows the person gathering your feedback during the presentation to be specific in what they are looking for.

When you are taking feedback notes, make them discrete and avoid direct eye contact with your co-presenter unless you have a hand gesture they need to see (if you are constantly making eye contact, it can make them nervous where they will potentially focus on you, and get worried about what you’re doing or writing)

Any time you work with others in front of an audience there needs to be great communication and expectations in advance, that probably applies to more than just presenting..

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