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Differences Between Facilitators & Trainers – 4 Reasons Why You Should Never Use “Facilitator and Trainer” Interchangeably

President Of TrainSmart, Inc.

Probably not — But your clients are going to do it anyway. And that’s the real problem. Corporate culture is always playing around with job titles. HR used to be the personnel department. Directors are now Leaders. Secretaries have been replaced with administrative assistants, executive assistants and coordinators.

Sometime in the past decade, many corporate training departments started calling their trainers, facilitators. Some have suggested the motivation for the change was the desire to distinguish these educators- many with advanced degrees– from the growing popularity of personal fitness trainers.

While the motivation to swap a trainer title with a facilitator title may have been for the purest professional motives, the result causes confusion. Why? Because facilitators and trainers are responsible for handling very different tasks

Oh, and to add to the confusion cluster, it’s not uncommon for someone who is a professional facilitator sometimes to do training and vice versa.

So, what’s the difference? The roles of a facilitator and trainer differ in four key areas:

1. The Goals of the Session

Training and facilitation have very different goals. Facilitation is “the art of helping adults learn through self-discovery.” It is used for brainstorming, strategic planning, team building, board meetings, and focus groups.

The goal of training, on the other hand, is to provide participants with knowledge and skills to use in their current jobs.

2. The Focus of the Session

In a facilitated session, the focus is on the participants. A facilitated session may be used to problem solve an issue; deal with a group dynamic that is interfering with the team’s effectiveness, and make collective decisions. Through the facilitator’s skills, the group can think more strategically, clearly, and effectively by coming up with their own solutions.

In a training session, the focus is on the presenter/trainer. The trainer is the Subject Matter Expert. They control what is being presented, and it is their job to transfer their knowledge to the participant through lectures and interactive activities.

3. Audience Involvement

The nature of a facilitated session demands high participation from all attendees. People’s opinions are key to the success of the session. Participants will be asked questions and feedback from everyone is expected. The outcome of the session is dependent on the group’s participation.

In a training session, success is not dependent on the entire group’s participation. Getting people’s opinions and viewpoints is not necessarily important. The participants are there to watch, listen and practice the new skills. It is a more individualized success than groupthink success.

4. Tools and Materials

When someone is asked to facilitate, they typically start by researching the issue being discussed. For the facilitated session, they bring tools like a meeting agenda, flip chart, whiteboard, and some supporting documentation.

When someone is asked to conduct a training session, they need an entirely different set of tools and materials. Trainers almost always come equipped with participant guides, handouts, PowerPoint presentations or actual equipment for hands-on training.

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Leslie has over 25 years experience in the training industry. Her responsibilities have included sales, hands on management and software training, curriculum development, needs analysis, usability testing, and project management. Her strong training background, organizational skills, and exceptional development expertise, augment her extensive sales and marketing abilities.