Today’s guest article is by Kirsty Lewis from the School of Facilitation. You may remember Kirsty and I did a webinar together back in February. (Scroll down to the bottom to find out about our next exciting collaboration this summer.)

Kirsty was recently asked the question, ‘What’s the difference between a trainer and a facilitator?’ Here she shares her thoughts. 

This was the question posed to me by Krystyna Gadd and it got me thinking, is there a difference?  What is it?  What are the different skills, behaviours even beliefs that the two roles have?

Here are some simple definitions:Trainerorfacilitator
A trainer =’a person who trains a person or an animal’
A facilitator = ‘a person who makes an action or process easier or easy’

Trainers often have more knowledge than the learner, have a pre-prepared agenda, hold a clear path to be followed, use exercises to enable the learners to connect with the content and grow their knowledge. There may be a test to check understanding.

A facilitator is not a content or knowledge expert, they hold the space for the group to evolve and grow through a topic or question they are examining. A facilitator will know how to move a group through the decision-making processes, will enable problem solving and intervene when appropriate.

A quote I found suggests:
“A trainer brings the participants from unknown to known. A facilitator brings the participants from known to unknown.”

This resonated for me as there are times I am in training mode (when running coaching and sales workshops) and other times I am holding a space for a group to discover something new (at the SOF gatherings).  Is there a space and place when we have both hats and they are interchangeable? 

In this day and age of learning, creating motivating and engaging events I believe there is a place for both capabilities. 

When I started to facilitate I noticed I shifted inside.  I learnt to trust the process I had designed.  I listened to my intuition, the signals I received from the energy in the room to move the group.  One of my biggest surprises was that I had to hold the outcomes lightly.  No longer could I grasp these tightly in my hand and say this is what will happen.  I have learnt to craft the sessions outcomes, use them as a guide and then let them go to hover in the space as the facilitated session unfolds.

I think there are common skills, behaviours and beliefs that both roles share.  If you are starting to shift your way of working and become more facilitative maybe think about what you already do as a trainer think about how you can transfer these into the new setting of facilitation.


  • Creating a container that is safe, enables people to express their ideas and opinions, learn
  • Fantastic questioning skills to create engagement and probe understanding
  • Listen to what is and isn’t said
  • Sense into the energy of the group to adjust, move or continue
  • Innately understand people ie EQ
  • Decent flipchart creations!

Behaviours & Beliefs

  • Open and curious to what is
  • Adaptable
  • A deep belief in what they do
  • A passion for their role in the room


Interesting food for thought from Kirsty, particularly on the blending of the roles. 

You may have also noticed that Kirsty makes reference to the importance of ‘decent flipchart creations’ in the role of the trainer and facilitator. On that note I will be running a Graphics class for the School of Facilitation on 19th July in Oxford. I can’t wait to head down there and work with some top facilitators and trainers in the beautiful setting of the Oxford Storytelling Museum.

Fore more info and to book your place please visit At the time of writing there are only three places left!