What does relatability have to do with anything?

On a recent workshop, a few delegates pointed out the importance of relatability when it comes to good L&D facilitation.  Why does this matter and what can you do about it?

As a learning facilitator, you are expected to do much more than just share ideas, models and tips.  There is the facilitation of delegates’ thinking, helping them engage with ideas and consider how to use the specific tools in their work.  Then there is the sharing of examples, stories or case studies that bring this to life.

As context is critical to learning application, these stories need to be relatable to the delegates.  Can they imagine that story as their own?  Can each person think about how they would react in that situation and how the tools on offer might help?

And how can you develop these stories and examples if you have not personally dealt with contexts the delegates can relate to?

Here are our top tips for making your content relatable;

Consider the audience, who are they? What challenges do they face and what situations will they find relevant?

Gather stories from other people who have something in common with this audience. You could even speak 1:1 to a few delegates in advance, to pick up scenarios and language that is relevant.

Think over your life experiences. When have you been in a situation that these people might be able to relate to?  When have you experienced something similar to their daily challenges?  Remember that personal lives often give rich treasure here too: relationship challenges, parenting, buying a home, changing jobs.

If you are lacking personal experience that might feel relevant to your audience, think about other stories you have heard. When have you heard other people talk about this group’s kind of challenges?  What stories could you share from this bank, saying, “I’ve heard other people say that when they….”

Sense-check your ideas with someone. If there are a couple of delegates you can speak to in advance, or someone who knows the audience well, check what they think will land well.

And finally, use your audience! On the day, ask them to share stories, as once you have been vulnerable and opened up the idea of being honest, others will do the same – then you can refer to their stories too.

The challenge here is that relatability is not a static list of things to do, but fluid and dynamic.  It requires you to observe the context in which you’re delivering your learning, and to adapt your style dependent on the needs of your audience.  Whilst the content you are trying to teach is obviously critical, being aware of how you relate that content to your audience’s context, can mean new opportunities to improve your approach to learning facilitation.