Presentation vs. Facilitation: Which method will reign supreme?

To learn something new you have to take information and make it knowledge. Then you must take that knowledge and turn it into a skill set (the follow on to that is to then help others learn it, but let’s leave that for another time). The question we’re faced with as Sea Scout adult leaders is what should we do to help our Scouts through this process? How can we set our Scouts up for success? I see two methods as front runners in this race for an answer: presentation and facilitation. Let’s take a look at each of them.


Presentation is defined as “an activity in which someone shows, describes, or explains something to a group of people.” As adult leaders we should use this method when content can move forward without a lot of input from the class and when you already know the solution to a problem.525842_10150771342828954_367009038_n

Characteristics of presenting are:

  • One-way information deliver
  • Speaker owns the energy in the room
  • Large group
  • Not dependent on feedback
  • Requires public speaking skills
  • Motivate your audience into taking a predefined action or series of actions

This success of this method is 100% based on the effort of the presenter. You must ensure that your examples, visual aids, references, and style are all conducive to teaching the material. Its objective can be summarized as “to gain agreement between the audience and your idea.”

Some examples of presentation tools are:

  • Powerpoint
  • Easel charts
  • Handout references
  • Video

The down side of the presentation method is when we present we are telling our Scouts this is how this works. That they have to accept what we have shown as the facts. If a Scout disagrees there are few ways for them communicate this without appearing at odds with the presenter.


Facilitation is the action aspect of facilitate. This is defined as “to make (something) easier, to help cause (something), to help (something) run more smoothly and effectively.” As adult leaders we need to use this when we want to generate discussion and leverage the knowledge or opinions of the rest of the group.engaging-MFI(1)

Characteristics of facilitating are:

  • Two-way communication
  • The group owns the energy in the room
  • Small group
  • Solicits feedback from the group
  • Requires special skills in group dynamics
  • Encourages the group to find their own solutions

By using the energy of the group rather than an individual there is less strain on adult leaders during periods of instruction. Also, each class becomes unique which is something Scouts desire. Facilitation’s objective can be view as “to create understanding rather than agreement.”

Some examples of facilitation tools are:

  • Posing open ended questions to the group
  • Activities where the Scouts have to offer opinions and views that they share with the group
  • Hands-on activities
  • Teach-backs (activities where the Scouts present material to the group)

The drawback of facilitation is that if you are unable to get the group to participate the instruction will feel strained and flat.

So who claimed the crown?

The fact of the matter is both presentation and facilitation have their place in Sea Scouts. It all comes down to the material being delivered. However, with facilitation there is a greater chance that the Scouts will embrace the material as they had a hand in establishing it.Crown

Consider this… I state “A float plan is necessary for each cruise so that someone ashore knows when we are leaving, where we are going, and when we should be back. If we aren’t back on time someone will know and can see if we need help.” With this statement I have dictated all the value of a float plan. I have told the Scouts “this is important because I said so and here is why.” This type of belief in a fact can be loosely rooted in the minds or memory because they had no part in it.

Let’s flip the coin… I ask, “Why are float plans important?” A Scout may say, “So people know where we’re going.” I reply, “Is there anything else?” “They also know when we should be back.” “What could they do with that information?” “Someone will notice if we’re not there and can see if we’re alright.” I’ll admit this is a best case scenario exchange, but with some follow on questions you might get there. Here we saw that the Scouts, not the adult leader, established the value of a float plan. They decided what details are important, how they impact us, and why they should care. I don’t know about you, but when I make a decision I tend to believe in it a bit more than if I was simply told.

As you go forward guiding your Sea Scouts to new skills and knowledge try to find ways to utilize both presentation and facilitation for a well rounded learning process. I challenge every Ship to seek the feedback of their Sea Scouts to see what new ideas could be introduced into advancement and training.



Vice Commodore of Program

Western Region Sea Scout Committee

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