Every Forum I’ve been a part of was lucky enough to have at least one trained/professional facilitator in the group. On retreats, we’d often run the activities ourselves, which was nice because it would save money, but it came with several negatives:
- Can’t Participate – If someone is successfully facilitating an activity, it’s almost impossible to be a participant as well. Facilitation takes up too much mental headspace to allow you to be reflective at the same time, plus you already know your own activities and have likely done them many times. Hence, it’s doubtful that any breakthroughs might happen for that person.
- Scope of Knowledge – Every facilitator has their bag of tricks. By tricks, I mean their knowledge, activities, and stories. By not leveraging an external facilitator, you are limited to only the knowledge already in the group.
- Group Dynamics – Every group is made up of people and the relationship between those people. That group dynamic is at play in every activity and conversation. An outside facilitator can shake up the established group dynamics because they aren’t part of them.
If you have the financial resources to bring an outside facilitator in, do it! Make sure you vet them, however, so you know they will bring real value to your group. There is a difference between a keynote speaker and a small group facilitator. Just because someone is great on stage doesn’t mean they will be great with your small group over an extended period of time.
So even if you have trained/professional facilitators in your group, I still think the negatives are strong enough to consider bringing an outside person in for a part of your retreat.