Good instructors are always conscious that the model of the facilitator being the “sage on the stage” is outmoded. A good facilitator knows that the required knowledge is often in the minds of the participants. Skillfully managed conversations can bring out this knowledge, and the participants will leave an event far more enlightened than if the instructor attempted to pour a “bucket of knowledge” into their minds.

This shift creates a democratization of the classroom experience giving everybody in the room an equal voice. My good friend and colleague in learning, Peter Frampton, the president of Accounting Comes Alive, gave our team a very practical tip recently that promotes equal participation. Avoid the temptation to ask participants if they have “any questions.” Instead, say “Any thoughts or comments?” You will find that that your participants will respond better and feel more included in the process.

And why not extend that to your meetings? I used to work for a boss who would ask people in meetings, “Do you understand?” This created the impression that she believed that she was intellectually superior to her colleagues. At best people would nod obligingly, but they didn’t experience the engagement that a lively discussion can stimulate.