What is the difference between a facilitator, trainer and presenter?

Some people call themselves trainers and other facilitators. However, is “facilitator” really an appropriate term when the “facilitator” exclusively lectures and uses Power Point? Are facilitating a strategic planning session and teaching someone how to do that really the same thing?

  • The root of the word “Educe,” literally means “to bring out.”
  • The root of “facilitate,” of course, is “facile,” or to make a process “easy.”

It’s no wonder confusion exists. The greatest trainers and facilitators do share many characteristics and behaviours. However, the role of trainer and facilitator are ineluctably different and that it’s important to distinguish between them. This will not only help reduce confusion about the terms, but more importantly ensure they retain real meaning.

These three roles are not the same thing.

  • The presenter. The presenter is a person delivering a message across to the “other side.” For example, this person is giving the latest sales numbers in a business meeting or letting members of the band boosters know the details of the upcoming candy fundraiser.
  • The trainer. Even though the term “training” is broadly accepted for the field of adult education, some in our field argue that “training” itself is an unacceptable word. The key feature is that the “other side” comes to the occasion prepared or expecting to learn. In addition, a trainer typically has more knowledge than the audience on the given topic. For example, someone who teaches an advanced Excel class should have more skill than those who come to class to learn.
  • The facilitatorThe definition of facilitate is “to make easy” or “ease a process.” The facilitator is not the same as presenter or trainer.
    • Unlike the presenter, the facilitator is not a one-sided delivery of a pre-arranged speech.
    • Unlike a trainer, the facilitator does not necessarily know more than the “other side.”