Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Posts tagged ‘Facilitation’

Planning for success

2013-04-11 14.20.35The biggest mistake made with workshops is cramming too much in. If we genuinely want people to develop new skills and knowledge which they can apply after the workshop use the KISS principle. Workshop developers often seem to think they must impart as much knowledge as possible in the shortest time frame possible, agendas are packed so full that by morning tea we have forgotten what was discussed first thing that morning.

When planning workshops I like to use  Bennetts Hierarchy, it provides a useful framework to refer to when you are developing the  agenda. I have simplified and modified Bennetts to make it practical for me.

Outcome – what is the intended outcome of the workshop, what is the big picture we are aiming to achieve? Gaining clarity about your outcome will help you design the right approach. Are you building skills or is your session about creating awareness?

Practice change – what do we want people to do differently as a result of attending our workshop or session. What tangible measurable change do we want them to make.

KASA changes – this is a very important step to consider

a. Knowledge – what knowledge is essential for the outcome and practice change. Lets not overwhelm people with everything we know and try to pump them full of every bit of knowledge on the topic we have collected over a lifetime! The trick is to make it simple to understand and impactful – provide links to extra information for the data hungry person, provide books for people to look at, and keep the information provided simple, easy to understand and apply and useful. What do they really really need to know!

b. Attitudes – this refers to the feelings/attitudes we are generating in the learning journey. What feelings do we want to create – confidence to make the change and meet the outcome, a positive, open approach to learning, a can do attitude?

c. Skills – the hands on doing. What do we want our participants to be able to do as a result of attending our workshop? How competent do we want them be when they leave to implement their learning’s? Remember knowledge doesn’t always lead to practice change where as skills development can.

d. Aspirations – what motivations do we want to instil in our participants. How do we want them to approach the practice change once they leave the workshop?

Activities  – once we have thought through these steps then we can start to think about the best activities to achieve our practice change while keeping the KASA in the front of our minds.

Resources – what resources do we need to complete our workshop activity; this can include our facilitation kit, venue, speakers, funding etc. These are the tangible requirements, which will make the workshop a success.

Now you have determined the knowledge and skills you would like participants to have and the activities to achieve the practice change the next step is to plan the agenda and think about the time frames required.

Building rapport … and sheep?

2013-04-20 11.44.12What does shifting a mob of sheep and building rapport with a group have in common? Good question!

I am often asked how to build rapport with a group of people … and have been reflecting on how I do this when facilitating.

From my childhood I shifted sheep on the family farm with my parents and continue to do so with my husband Bill. We were bringing the sheep home for shearing a few months ago … a good time to reflect and think. I was observing the mob, watching for the leaders, preparing for the break away when we got to gate and keeping eye contact with the “rogue” who was waiting for the opportunity to lead the others off in the wrong direction.

Powers of observation built up from childhood – scanning and watching for body language, making eye contact when required to hold attention, looking out for the signs of discomfort, boredom or time for a rest… developed subconsciously over many years. Skills learnt in one situation, which perhaps I have taken for granted, and applied to a different situation with equal success.

Just like the sheep groups of people will often have the rapport leader, the one the others copy and take the lead from. If you have the opportunity to sit an observe a group watch for the matching and mirroring of gestures and body language. The person leading is most often unaware of the role they are playing. When the facilitator is also in rapport with the this person the rapport is developed more quickly with the group. Being in rapport provides the opportunity to really connect with people, enhancing the whole learning process.

To develop the your skills of observation take some time out when catching public transport or take time to sit and watch large groups of people, look for the body language – train you eye to pick up on the signs of frustration, boredom and interest.

When at the front of the room it’s important to be present for the group, silence the “voice in your head” and be there for the group, watch for their signals. After a while this becomes innate and without realising it we are picking up the vibes of the group. If you are co-facilitating check in with each other about what you are each picking up from the group and reflect with each other afterwards about the rapport.

Go beyond merely communicating to ‘connecting’ with people. Jerry Bruckner

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“Being up the front”

IMG_3930Being in front of groups of people can be a daunting place until we get used to it. This blog aims to provide a few tips to think about when you “up the front”.

  • Be aware of your body language and what you are portraying to the group. As scary as it might seem being videoed while presenting or facilitating gives you a really good concept of what people see from the other side.
  • Move around the room with purpose.
  • Moving towards people who talk too much can help to quieten them down.
  • Make eye contact with your participants. Connect with each of them many times
  • Keep your body still – don’t sway, step back and forth or overuse body movements.
  • Use gestures to make a point, once again with purpose and intent. If you are the type of person who talks with their hands be aware of this and manage your gestures.
  • Be aware of what you do with your hands, putting them on your hips can be confronting to people. I often hold a marker pen as this makes me aware of my hands and stops my tendency for putting them on my hips or over gesturing.
  • Let your passion about the topic or activity show. Passion provides energy for the group and is contagious.
  • Breathe … while this might sound so simple when we are under pressure we often “shallow breathe” which makes us more up tight. Do some deep breathing exercises before you start and if you feel yourself getting up tight take a moment and breathe deeply. I remember clearly one of my first public speaking occasions where I started to speak and suddenly had a terrible headache … I had stopped breathing. I rushed through the experience and left feeling very unhappy with my presentation, if only I had remembered to breathe!
  • There are lots of great books about presenting to groups which provide useful tools for managing nerves.

The most powerful public speaking training I ever experienced was with a wonderful woman called Tessa Bremner. Tessa has trained politicians to make speeches in parliament and comes from a background in Theatre  Tessa facilitated training for several groups of rural women I was working with, she made the training fun and interactive. It was amazing to see the growth and development of skills of the women in only one day. Other than breathing and warming up before presenting, the tip I always carry with me from Tessa is to create a circle of light. Imagine a circle of light on the floor where you will stand, step into that circle and stand tall, imagine the circle is safe and provides confidence to you in your role. While working in the circle nothing else matters except the role you are in at the time.

Connect with your participants, spend time establishing the group at the beginning of the session to help you establish connection. I like to feel like I am member of the group who is guiding them through a process.

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Tips for facilitating large groups

2013-05-28 16.14.40Facilitating larger groups provides a different set of challenges for the facilitator. This week Sharon and I ran our Facilitation Skills Workshop in Qld with a group of 30 professionals who work with beef producers.

Here are a few tips for working with a group this size

  •  Have tables set up with five participants per table, this is the maximum I would have at one table to ensure everyone is involved. More that this reduces interaction and provides the opportunity for the quieter members to “hide” within the group.
  • Check visibility – sit in some of the seats prior to the participants arriving to check you are able to clearly see the front of the room, the flip charts, other participants etc.
  • Having two facilitators is very important for variety and the ability to engage with the smaller groups. Our rule of thumb is one facilitators per 12 participants.
  • When developing the group guidelines ask if participants will move tables after each break. This assist with the energy in the room as well as ensuring the participants get to know each other and work with different personality types.
  • Introductions and icebreakers can be carried out at each table, however I still believe it is important for everyone to introduce themselves briefly to the whole group. This can be simply their name and where they are from.
  • Instead of collecting an expectation from each person one at a time and writing these up on the flip chart give everyone a black texta and piece of A6 paper. We asked everyone to write up one expectation, put their name on the paper and stick it up on our “sticky wall”. We then read through the expectations so everyone was aware of what people were expecting. At the end of the workshop we asked everyone to take their expectation sheet back from the wall and write a comment on how well this had been met. These we collected as part of our evaluation.
  • Table activities become very important in groups this size and its important to provide a variety of activities. A few ideas include
    • Group discussion, writing up ideas on the flip chart paper and reporting back to the whole group.
    • Group discussion and then collecting one idea per table – going around until all ideas have been collected. The facilitator can record the ideas from the front.
    • Building on each others ideas – each table has a topic and piece of flip chart they write their ideas and then pass the paper onto the next table who builds on the ideas and so on. Eventually the paper will return to the original table so they can review all of the ideas.
    • The sticky wall can be used to collect ideas or points of view from everyone in the room using the a6 paper and read through by the facilitator.
  • As our session included some training and practice we divided the group into two for a practice session.

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Branding – How do we want to be seen by others?

IMG_0164I had never really seriously considered the concept of personal branding until I came across Matt Church’s books on Though Leadership. Matt talks about “signature style” and the need for it to be consistent, congruent and function.

I was reminded of this recently when Lindy Nelson from the Agri-Women’s Development Trust NZ was visiting Australia. Lindy presented to a rural women’s leadership program we were running and talked about identifying your leadership brand.

One way to get started is to think of some words you would like to come to mind when people think of you in that role. Then think carefully about the “how” you demonstrate this to the world. What have you done, or what will you do, to ensure the brand is congruent with “who” you are.

Asking others is a good way to get feedback and check in with the consistency of the message you are aiming to portray. Ask specific questions so you get clear worthwhile answers. A simple start is “What words would you use to describe me as a….”

As a facilitator, trainer and coach I have been thinking carefully about the brand thats important for me. The words that are important include: professional, inclusive, innovative, creative, outcomes focus, personable and sense of fun.

As Matt Church points out “its an expression of you, rather than an affectation of who you’d like to be.”

www.mattchurch.com

Branding must be true to who you are…what are the words that are important for your “signature style” and how do you portray these to the world?

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Effective Flip Charts

IMG_0801I’m an avid user of  the Flip Chart, or as I tend to call it “butchers paper”. As my skills in facilitation have increased my reliance on powerpoint has decreased to the point I now rarely use it.

Todays’s blog is a few strategies in how I use Flip Charts effectively

  • Use colour – Mr Sketch Markers are a fantastic facilitation tool. I like to use lots of colour, borders, headings in different colours and usually write each line in a different colour so it is easier to distinguish as a participant.Be careful of some of the lighter colours, orange can be hard to read – however it is still great for headings.
  • Always, and I mean always, use the participants words. As soon as you change the words you have taken the ownership away from that person. This can be challenging with some extraverts who like to talk. Let them talk and then ask “What would you like me to write up here to capture your thoughts?”. If you remember from an earlier post extraverts like to think and speak at the same time- they will work through their thoughts out loud and then are usually very good at brining it back to a sentence. Listen carefully to the key words used by participants and always ask permission before changing anything. If you don’t understand what they are saying ask them “What would you like me to write down?”.
  • Put the flip charts up around the room so people can refer back to them. Once you have turned over the page no-one can see what has been discussed. Participants have told us they like the sheets to be put up in order and numbered so they can follow the flow of the session more easily.
  • Don’t worry about spelling – we are all human, if, like me, there are times the spelling simply disappears from your head, tell the group and someone  will almost always help – or put a “spell check” button on the corner of the page and make light of it.
  • Practice writing on the butchers paper – use print and make it large enough that people can read it around the room. It takes time to write neatly in straight lines on a flip chart.
  • Whenever you can, ask participants to work in small groups and let them record their own ideas – this can create more ownership in the process.
  • Keep the process underway while you are writing on the flip chart if possible, however don’t talk to the chart instead of the group and don’t hide behind the chart when reading comments back to the group.

I have received lots of great feedback about my pieces of “butchers paper” and find it a fantastic interactive facilitation tool.

Hope you all enjoy a great ANZAC day.

Tips for running great field days

EL Bill Fungicides 2Tips for great field days – thanks once again to the GRDC Extension group for their ideas. I have build on their brainstorm with some other thoughts collected from discussions over the last 12 months.

Tips for great field days …

  • Well located – think about where the field day site is to be located. Is it easily accessible? If it’s a very wet season will people still be able to access the site? What is the noise level like? Is there a busy highway or train line close to the site which will impact on peoples ability to hear speakers?
  • Run on time – start and finish on time, value the effort people have made to be there. This includes the sessions during the day – speakers don’t feel valued if they have prepared for 30 minutes are then are cut short because the  person prior has gone over time.
  • Know and “name” the outcomes to be achieved by the event. A few well formed outcomes are more achievable than lots and lots!
  • Local, relevant and topical – what are the key issues being faced in the district right now.
  • Credible topics – how can this be integrated into my farm business?
  • Recognised farmer – utilise farmers where possible to tell stories and value add to the research with their first hand experiences.
  • Evaluate – follow up, how effective was the event? Were the agreed outcomes achieved? What worked well and what could be done differently next time?
  • Good agronomy – make sure the trials are well presented and in line with district practice.
  • Interaction time – ensure there is time for participants to views trials, ask questions and discuss what they might have learnt amongst themselves.
  • Good food – this is vitally important! Poor food will be all that is reported on so get it right!
  • Focus – not heaps of trials or topics.
  • Crop trial inspection time – focus on a few trials is more effectively than overwhelming people with lots to view. Think about how much you can take in during one session.
  •  Add something that is a “bit left of field” or “blue sky” to create some interest
  • BBQ  & beer to finish off the day and allow some very important networking time.

What other ideas do readers have about what makes a great field day?

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