Published: August 25, 2016   Updated: September 16, 2016

Sometimes new facilitators feel like they have to know everything. Or seasoned facilitators are afraid to admit they don’t. In this video, Sam Killermann explains the power of saying, “I don’t know,” as a facilitator and how to role model being a non-expert.

Big take-aways:

  • you don’t have to know everything
  • it’s helpful to say “I don’t know”
  • role model learning, don’t vilify ignorance

Check out more of Sam’s facilitation work and creative projects for global justice head to


Question: Do I have to know everything before I facilitate?

sK: “One of the most powerful things that I’ve ever seen in a room as a participant is a facilitator who is willing to say, “I don’t know.”

And we are so afraid to not know anything in our lives, ignorance is vilified in every aspect of our life. That to see someone in the front of a room who is in a position of authority, who you think should know everything, get a question and just be like, “You know I don’t know the answer to that…I wish I did. But I don’t.” That is so amazing.

And, as a participant I remember the first time I saw that happening I was like, “Oh my gosh, I can also do that!” So for me when people are struggling with the feeling of, “I don’t know everything, I can’t possibly facilitate a training.” The thing that I like to remind people is that (1) nobody knows everything. And (2) that being honest about that and knowing enough, but not knowing everything, is a great thing to role model for a group.

Because we are asking people to come into a space and be interested in learning something, be willing to say that they don’t know it, be willing to make mistakes, and then be willing to learn from those mistakes. That is what facilitation is in so many ways. And if we as facilitators can model that it will make it so much easier for everyone else to do it too.”

Written by FacilitatingXYZ Team

This is the account that the FacilitatingXYZ team uses. FacXYZ is co-facilitated by Meg and Sam, and brings in expertise, knowledge, and lived experience from facilitators far and wide. Read more about us here.

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