Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Archive for March, 2012

What gives a Field Day the Wow factor?

What makes a great Field Day?

There are hundred’s of field days run across rural Australia every year with varied success. I would like to collate your ideas so we can share the Wow factor and all enjoy more great learning opportunities.

  • What’s the most important thing that gives the Wow factor at field days for you? (why?)
  • What’s the big field day mistake? What would you do differently?

I’d love to hear from you and will share the collective wisdom in future posts.

You can add a your answers in a comment to this blog or email me on

I will also collate the responses and combine them into a document which will be provided to you as recognition of your valuable contribution.

To follow my blog by email you can sign up on the right hand side of this page

Workshop Introductions with Wow

One of my pet hates is going along to a workshop where we are not given the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the others in room. Yes, you can argue it takes up valuable time especially in a short workshop, however, one of the key drivers for people to attend events is to network and meet like minded people.

A short introduction

  • provides safety, we all get a sense of who else is in the room and are more likely to share our experiences
  • gives an opportunity for the networkers in the room to identify whom they would like to talk to in the breaks
  • allows the introverts speaking time. If an introvert doesn’t speak early in the session they can often sit through the workshop and not have the confidence to share their ideas.
  • sets the scene for the workshop and builds the group or team

Robyn asked a question about timing with workshops especially with introductions. The way I like to handle this is by giving a time frame and clear instructions for the introductions. I will put this up on the whiteboard so it is understood by everyone.

For example

Introductions (in one minute)

  • name
  • location 
  • What attracted you to attend this session?

I find that if everyone is clear about the timeframe and the instructions they tend to stick to the guidelines and not ramble on. If they do ramble on, the pre-set timeframe gives the facilitator permission to politely close them down and move onto the next person.

Another tip is to ask everyone to write down their introductions, give them a minute or two to write down what they are going to say to the group. This gives the introverts thinking time keeps the extroverts quiet for a minute. It also means people have clarified their thinking and will listen to what the person speaking is saying rather than preparing their own introduction in their head.

Rather than working your way around the room ask for a volunteer to start and then move randomly around the room. I like to use a ball to throw around rather than creeping from person to person. The ball provides some fun and lightness to the process.

There are lots of great tools for introductions and icebreakers to build the group which I will cover in future blogs.

Farm succession – getting started

When to start the succession planning process?

I believe right now is a good time! If we think about it as part of the business strategic planning process and integrate it into our thinking it’s becomes an important part of ensuring business continuity.

Most members of family farms have the common goal that the farm should stay in the family. This is a great way to get the discussion started; there are plenty of examples of farms that have not remained in the family because the discussion never happened.

Certainly when someone is entering or exiting the business is an essential time to meet and discuss the effect of any changes.

Too often the discussion only starts when there is a family crisis, someone is unhappy, leaving the business or causing waves. Sometimes this is too late. However, as sensible as the process might seem, sitting around the table to discuss Wills, land transfers, retirements and pay outs understandably causes fear and emotion.

Getting everyone to the table at the same time can be difficult. Starting the process can be challenging and different generations will be ready at different times. For the older generation it wasn’t common practice for them when they entered farming. Assumptions made and many of them had to wait for the previous generation to exit,or even die, to take over the farming business. They often didn’t know what was in the Will until it was read.

This generation had to trust their parents to look after them and may expect the younger generation to do the same.

In contrast the younger generation are looking at farming differently – they have been encouraged to see it as a business which like any other small business should have a plan. They are looking for security for their future, to know what will happen and when.

Expectations are different and the generations need to be considerate of each others needs. Stephen Covey’s “Seek first to understand and then to be understood” is important for succession planning. Ask questions and really listen to the answers, ask more questions. Do your best to encourage open and honest communication.

Unfortunately there is not one forumla, every family is different with different personalities and needs.

A few tips for getting people to the table

  • demystify the process as much as possible, explain carefully what’s involved and what would be expected of people.
  • remind family members of the big picture goal and the need to ensure everyone is looked after while maintaining the business (if that’s the goal)
  • recognise the fear and emotion attached to succession planning and deal with this as it arises. Acknowledge the emotions and address them, don’t sweep them under the carpet or respond inappropriately.
  • hold the meeting away from the family home. Treating it like a business meeting in a neutral environment often improves behaviour and ensures the meeting is taken seriously. It can also stop us from retreating to childhood behaviours and habits.

And  always remember; we all do the best we can with the resources we have available to us!

Getting started with Wow

Make your workshop start with Wow!

And I mean before your workshop even starts. What’s the atmosphere you want to create as your participants walk into the room? ….I want them to think “Wow this looks interesting I’m glad I made the effort to be here.”

Welcome your participants individually as they arrive. I love a quote by Robyn Henderson of Networking to Win – “If you are the host treate your guests how you would like to be hosted.”

How would you like to be welcomed as you arrive? By a facilitator who is aloof at the front of the room, someone who distances themselves as the expert, someone who is flat out getting organised for the event?

We have alll been the participant walking into a room for a workshops where we didn’t know anyone… how would you like to be treated? how would you like to feel? What would you like to see?

I like a friendly warm welcome so participants feel comfortable and at ease … here are some tips

  • Be organised! By the time your first participant walks in the room should be set up ready to roll.
  • Have a welcome on your flip chart or Power point slide – that way people know they are in the right place.
  • Greet each paticipant as they walk in – shake their hand … might seem like I’m stating the obvious, however, from experience it doesn’t always happen.
  • Have name tags ready … this makes life much easier for you, not only to introduce participants to each other,  but also if you are like me remembering names is not a strong point.
  • Introduce the participants to each other, if there is a conversation happening in the room , provide the new person with a lead into the conversation.
  • Some facilitators like to use music before the workshop and in breaks.. this can be effective, however think about appropriateness of the music and importantly the volume.
I highly recommend visiting Robyn Henderson’s site  Robyn has great networking apply any of which apply to greeting and working with participants.








Finally …Wow! Thanks for all the great comments. You have all provided lots of topics for discussion and I’m really looking forward to tackling them over the next few weeks.

Send in your burning questions and comments …

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