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When I started my Communication Career, I never realized there would be so many opportunities to use my skills. As Communication Professionals, we have to understand our stakeholders; educate people about programs and processes; ensure diverse viewpoints are heard; and consult with internal and external partners to help them accomplish their goals. That’s why it doesn’t surprise me when Communication Professionals become trainers, coaches and facilitators, but it wasn’t until recently that I truly started to understand the difference between these roles.

Today, we’re going to talk about what it means to be a trainer, coach or facilitator.

If you haven’t read our first few posts in this series on navigating your Communication Career, here they are:

Navigating your Communication Career

On the Inside: Working as an In-house Communication Professional

Choosing to be a Communication Contractor

Should I become and Independent Communication Consultant?


So what’s the difference?

Trainer

A trainer is like an educator or teacher. They have expertise in a given area and teach you how it’s done. They run their own workshops or can be hired to come into your business to conduct turn-key or customized training. Some trainers, coaches and facilitators are in-house. Recently, we’re seeing a lot more training happening online via webinars or through Learning Management Systems. I know many Independent Communication Professionals who provide training as one of their offerings.

  • Eric Bergman, in Toronto, does media training
  • Donna Papacosta has a Social Media workshop that I attended when I first started my business
  • Jeff Herrington, from Dallas, teaches people how to write effectively
  • Steve and Cindy Crescenzo, from Chicago, teach a successful Strategic Internal Communication Workshop that I’m excited to bring to Toronto this Fall

I’ve added a few training programs to my business offerings as well.

  • A Strategic Internal Communication Bootcamp
  • An Engagement Solution Bootcamp
  • Personal Training Sessions where Communication and HR professionals can learn how to up their Internal Communication game

Bottom line. A trainer teaches you how to do something that the customer finds valuable.

Coach

To the chagrin of certified coaches around the world, so many people refer to themselves as coaches who simply are not.

I know a few Communication Professionals who have discovered a passion for coaching.

  • Kellie Garrett from Regina, Saskatchewan who is an executive coach
  • Mary-Ellen Hynd in Toronto who provides career and leadership coaching
  • Friend Lisa Taylor has an entire company called The Challenge Factory that specializes in helping people through Career Transitions and Legacy Careers

A coach usually provides counsel 1:1. Their job is to ask questions and listen. They use a discovery process to help you navigate your strengths and opportunities. Although the process uses specific tools and techniques, the results are unique to each client.

Many people hire a personal coach to help them through change and address any barriers they may have for success. I hired a personal coach to help me through my transition from corporate communicator to business owner. Over a few years, our conversation have been less about skills, and more about self-belief and getting rid of negative self-talk.

I realize that although I may from time-to-time use coaching techniques, I don’t consider myself a coach.
Facilitator

A facilitator helps drive conversations and meetings to ensure you get the results you’re looking for. Some facilitators lead meetings or panel discussions, some lead focus group discussions, others have techniques they have been trained and licensed to deliver.

Many of my colleagues are brilliant facilitators:

  • Martha Muzychka from Newfoundland works with many organizations helping them navigate priorities;
  • Pinaki Kathieri of Local Wisdom in New Jersey uses Design Thinking workshops to drive discussion; and
  • Darci Roberts, from Toronto is a trained facilitator using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method which I am fascinated with and hope to add as an offering for my clients.

I’m finding that more and more, I’m being hired to facilitate discussions and meetings with my clients. I love facilitation because it unleashes the power of the conversation and contribution. I love seeing light bulbs go off as people begin to understand and appreciated diverse perspectives.

Organizations hire externally for trainers, coaches and facilitators for the following reasons:

  • A great way to find expertise for programs, projects and people not needed for day-to-day delivery.
  • An important third-party perspective that comes to the table without any biases.
  • They want to experiment with techniques that are new and different (like Design Thinking).
  • They can hire deep expertise in a particular area as needed.
  • Sometimes it’s easier to make the case for a $2500 or $5000 workshop to introduce an expert to eventually make the case for a longer-term strategic relationship. It gives them a safe way to bring in an expert and test them out.

Communication Professionals also have reasons to choose to become trainers, coaches and facilitators:

  • There is something really fulfilling about teaching skills, uncovering potential and teaching people to both listen and contribute.
  • In-house trainers, coaches and facilitators act like internal consultants, but those that are external consultants love the variety of problems that need to be solved.
  • This career can be flexible and you have the opportunity to set your schedule and work as much or as little as you want.If you’re a parent or caregiver, you can arrange your schedule so that you’re able to do more with your kids.
  • You can focus on your expertise and passion. As long as there is a market for it, being able to showcase your deep expertise in an area means you do more of what you love and less of the other stuff.

As I said, I’m not a coach, but I do love the opportunity to train and facilitate. In fact, I’ve learned that facilitation is an area of expertise I never knew I had and is becoming a growing area for me. As a trainer, I love helping organizations build expertise in strategic communication, employee engagement and change management.

What I love

  • Flexibility. I decide how busy I want to be.
  • Once you’ve developed the expertise, the process and techniques become turnkey.
  • I love helping drive discussions, whether it is introspective looks at ourselves, or collaboration among peers. At the end of the day, these conversations are powerful and get organizations closer to their goals.
  • I can charge more than my typical consulting rate based on impact, importance and number of people attending the session.
  • I find that training and facilitation is a good way to fill the gaps on days I don’t have consulting work.
  • Training and facilitation often leads to consulting work.
  • I enjoy travelling (not too much) and learning about new cultures and organizations.

What I struggle with

  • You have to keep marketing yourself to ensure steady work.
  • New techniques are being introduced every day. It means you have to keep up to date with the latest and greatest. I choose to focus on my own expertise areas and partner with experts who can work with me on Internal Communication focused projects.
  • For me, training and facilitation is less of a frequent ask and more time bound. Although it’s a piece of a greater solution, I like to work with organizations on longer-term strategic projects and opportunities.

A few pieces of advice:

  • Identify your areas of expertise. Don’t try to be all things to all people.
  • Get the training. It helps to have credentials and certifications behind you.
  • Have a methodology. At the beginning, my training was ad hoc, it’s now been packaged into modules, workshops and templates. Some of them have evolved through delivery and experience.
  • Think about Intellectual Property. Give credit when you’re using data, methodologies, and other people’s ideas. Don’t pass them off as your own. I’m actually considering packaging my Engagement Solution Workshop for other consultants and agencies to use for a licensing fee.
  • Add in preparation time to your quotes. Remember that it’s not just your hourly rate on site; it’s also briefings, prep, intellectual property, and expertise that you are selling.

This is my opinion, but I’d love for others to pipe in. Are you a trainer, coach or facilitator? Why did you choose it? Tell us why you love or hate the experience. What advice can you share?

Stay tuned for our next blog post in this series on working for or building a Communication Agency.

 

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