In the training and development arena, there are trainers, facilitators, and keynote speakers. Often the terms are used interchangeably as organizations just want someone “to present”. But for those who perform the services, these three functions are very different.

A keynote speaker often delivers a one-way message with limited audience participation. A trainer can provide material in an engaging manner, but that person still provides the majority of the content. A facilitator utilizes their skills to draw out and frame the insights from others, serving as a process conductor more than a content provider.

I see these three roles as a metaphor for leaders in organizations. A keynote-type leader is more hierarchical and predominantly delivers information to subordinates in a one-way manner. A trainer-type leader involves staff in some of the interactions, but they still rely on the boss for providing and controlling the overall information flow. A facilitator-type leader dedicates more energy establishing parameters to allow others the freedom to work independently within them. The facilitator-type leader creates output in concert with others rather than imparting something that is pre-determined.

Just as presenters are more suited and talented in one of the three styles, so leaders naturally gravitate to the way that is most comfortable for their temperament. All are necessary and appropriate in the right situation; the key is being intentional to match the need and culture with the right type.

Are you a keynoter, trainer or facilitator – and what does your organization need from you?



I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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