Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Archive for April, 2012

Things to play with in workshops

I love to see creativity in workshops.

Providing things for participants to play with like pipe cleaners and stress balls is so simple and so effective.

Pipe cleaners can be made into all types of objects, fiddled with, rolled around fingers and the great thing about them is that they are quiet!

I’m always amazed at the adults in my workshops who are delighted when they discover the pipe cleaners are not on the table for a mysterious facilitative activity but are simply there to play with.

“Great, I won’t be sitting here clicking my pen!”

For many of us its a long time since we sat in a school class room all day, we are used to being busy, active and having things to do with our hands.

Kinaesthetic learners tell me their learning increases if they are busy doing something, and this includes playing with toys. It may appear like they are not interested or participating in the program; experience has shown me this is not the case.

Cheap shops provide a great array of soft toys, balls and blocks which can be put on the tables. They add a sense of fun and lightness and assist with creative thinking.

Recently one of the participants collected all of the pipe-cleaners at the end of the workshop and asked if she could take them for a meeting the next day!

Make the learning experience fun, enjoy the outcome and the creations!

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Workshops with just the right pace

Getting the pace right for the participants can be an art in itself.

A fellow facilitator and I recently participated in a training workshop, and as facilitators do, afterwards we discussed the process of the training as much as the material we had learnt. We both discovered that for us the pace was a bit slow. This lead to an interesting discussion about what is the right pace and the right pace for whom!

Our reflection on our own learning styles was that we are quite fast paced learners and like things to move along reasonably quickly. This lead us to the thought that were we facilitating in the way we like to learn. … so did that mean maybe we were too fast for some in our audience?

One of my goals in facilitation – from many years ago – was not to have people falling asleep in a session. I decided this counted as a personal failure – so my reflection was ….has this goal lead me to increasing the pace?

Since the dicussion I have taken note of the participants in my workshops and carefully observed their behaviour as a way of checking on pace.

I now check pace by:

  • observing the group carefully for signs, are they looking bored, flustered or appear engaged in the disussion and activities
  • asking someone in the break – so simple – choose a couple of people whose behaviour you may have noticed and someone that appears to be traveling OK.
  • have a question on your evluation form and ask the pace question – use a scale so a simple cross on the line will do.

Be aware of your own preferences and speed and how this might be influencing your style.

When participants say to me…  “Oh is it afternoon tea time already – gosh the day is flying past” …I think  – great – they are engaged in the material and activities and the pace must be about right for them. They are in flow and not noticing the time.

What’s the right pace for you?

Please add your stories or ideas in the comments with this blog.

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20 ideas to create Field Days with Wow

What gives a field day the Wow factor?

This blog is a compilation of the emails and comments I have collected from my last post. I hope you all enjoy reading it and gain some useful insights into what gives a field day the Wow factor.

  1. Seeing or hearing something new – this could be machinery or a trial
  2. When planning the event the organizers have thought carefully about the objectives & key messages
  3. When the focus is on a few topics.
  4. Hearing the real life story from someone who has done it. Give the research or theory and then a practical case study of whats worked in the field and what could be done differently.
  5. Time for networking, name tags, time to introduce people and find about the other people at the event.
  6. Interactive sessions – get rid of the power points
  7. Plenty of time for questions and discussion
  8. Evaluation – having the opportunity to let the organisers know what worked well and what could be done differently. These need to be written so people can be honest with their answers.
  9. BBQ, great food
  10. Have a microphone!! A PA system with back up batteries, make sure people can hear whats going on.
  11. Be aware of the target audience and aim the information at the right level.
  12. Relevant up-to-date information
  13. Including some “blue-sky” research thats related to the region.
  14. Hands on activities in the trial – not all stand and listen
  15. Chairs to sit on around the site
  16. Independent advice from industry experts
  17. Field days that consider the needs of women – timing, location toilet and child friendly
  18. Opportunity for small groups discussions
  19. Be aware of the impact of the location and outside noise – good locations are accessible even when it’s wet, they are quiet (not with a train line or highway alongside the site)
  20. Being aware of why farmers attend these events – knowledge, social occasion, exchanging ideas, seeing something different and providing for all of these creates the wow.
The most commonly highlighted mistake was cramming too much into the field day – information overload, too many sessions, too many power points …

Thanks to everyone for your fantastic contribution to this Blog topic.

It doesn’t end here! Please continue to send through your thoughts and comments about great field days so I can continue my blog.

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Tips for managing energy in workshops

Having the opportunity to observe a workshop is a great chance to watch the energy levels of the room and think about how to manage this effectively.

I believe keeping the energy up is the facilitators responsibility. I like participants to leave at the end of the session fired up with energy instead of drained and tired.

Some tips for energy management

  • Let your passion for the topic show. Passion breeds energy which will flow into the group.
  • Move, have the room set so you can walk into the centre of the room
  • Use different mediums – flip charts, activities
  • Use power point as little as possible
  • Move people around for different activities encourage them work with a variety of people
  • Ask people to sit in a different spot in the room, next to someone else, after a break.
  • Think about attention spans – how long is yours? apply this to the group
  • Use your voice to express a point, tell as story.

Enthusiastic participants add energy to the room,use this to enthuse others and not to dominate.

Be aware of the after lunch flat spot – about 2pm. This is a good time to include an activity which includes moving as well as using our brains. Be careful of asking the group if they would like to do an activity at this time. As humans we often take the path of least resistance when feeling flat, our role is to motivate them to get their energy back.

When the participants are flat be aware that sitting with them (on the same level) may also affect your energy. You need to make a conscious effort to stand up and move around putting energy back oonto the group when participants are flat.

When workshops end mid afternoon its even more important to get through the afternoon flat spot with an activity. I want my particiants to leave on a high not on a low. They are more likely to encourage others to attend if they leave full of enthusiasm.

Please share your ideas as comments.

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