Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Posts tagged ‘training’

A workshop too far

Rural Women-5Using technology for workshops is something I have been doing for many years, running webinars and having guest speakers Skype into a workshop session. Earlier this year we attempted this differently with one of our participants, Jeanette Gellard,  joining on Skype from South Korea for a full two days. Quite an achievement for Jeanette when the rest of the group were all face to face in a rather noisy room in a city hotel and the workshop was very interactive!

We simply connected the iPad to a speaker and had a headset on hand for practice activities. Fortunately the internet didn’t let us down and the participant enjoyed the experience and the interaction with the group.

Here are Jeanette’s comments about the experience…..

When is too far away, really too far way? Over the last few years I’ve come to realise that the answer to that question is, Never! Thanks to the development of our communications technology, distance no longer needs to be the barrier that it once was. Skype, Facetime, Viber, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, GoTo Meeting and a plethora of other software programs and applications make it relatively easy to stay connected to others. Whether its video, audio, text or image based our capacity to communicate with others and participate in events is really only limited by our access to a good quality internet connection and a device that runs the relevant program or application.

Living in South Korea I have the privilege of being able to access some of the fastest internet connections in the world. What this means in a practical sense is that I get high quality video streamed through my computer or smart-phone which allows me to participate ‘virtually’ in a range of activities from workshops and study tutorials to conversations with friends and family ‘over a cup of coffee’. Over the past six months I’ve ‘attended’ two workshops in Adelaide, South Australia from the comfort of my apartment in Busan, South Korea, some 7,853 km away! Both events were successful from my perspective due to the following key elements.

  • The openness of the workshop organisers in considering the inclusion of a ‘virtual’ participant
  • The setup of the workshop area which enabled me to see presenters and also for other participants to be aware that I was ‘in attendance’
  • The delivery of presentation material prior to or during the workshop via email so that I had the same information as everyone else
  • Having a ‘buddy’ who checked up on me throughout the workshop (Could I hear? Could I see? Did I want to say anything?)
  • The acceptance of the other workshop participants in having a ‘virtual’ classmate and their willingness to engage with me on a one-on-one basis using the available technology. This included participants randomly ‘dropping by’ to chat with me during workshop breaks.
  • Being included in group photos!

From my end there were a couple of things that I put in place to ensure that my participation would be as positive as possible.

  • I set myself up in a quiet spot away from distractions and noise
  • Used the mute button on my microphone when I wasn’t speaking to make sure any background noise at my end (paper shuffling, typing, heavy breathing…..) wasn’t distracting other workshop participants
  • Kept my device on charge throughout the workshop

So next time you think something is too far away to attend, think again! Ask the organisers whether it’s possible to make a ‘virtual’ appearance. Jeanette Gellard, Innovative Influences jeanette@innovativeinfluences.com.au

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The facilitators tool kit

2014-10-04 10.14.09I was asked recently what a facilitator should have in their toolkit. Hence today I thought I would go back to basics.. what does the facilitator/trainer need in their tool box?

The basics

  • Permanent markers – I like Mr Sketch coloured markers
  • White board markers & eraser
  • Blu tack to put up flip charts around the room
  • Flip charts, or as I call it butchers paper
  • Masking tape – great for name tags, it stays on rather than falling off!
  • Post it notes
  • Highlighter pens
  • Coloured markers for participants
  • Spare pens for participants who forget to bring their own
  • Scissors
  • Data projector, power board and extension cord if required
  • A whiteboard that doubles as a flip chart stand

For the facilitation sessions

  • Cheap plastic table cloth
  • 3M repositional glue
  • A5 paper
  • Black markers – enough for every member of the group
  • Coloured dots, helpful for prioritising and voting
  • Large post it notes can be very useful too

And the extra bits

  • Pipe cleaners for the kinaesthetic learners to play with
  • Balls and toys
  • A clear clock to put on the desk so its easy to keep track of the time without looking constantly at our watch!
  • A bell can be handy when working with large groups to get their attention or change tasks – be aware not to over use it
  • Timer for short activities
  • Note books/paper for participants if required
  • Camera/phone to capture some piccs or take photos of the information generated by the group
  • A speaker to play music in the breaks or sound for videos

And to easily move all of this about, a box on wheels is very useful.What else do people have in their toolkit?

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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Facilitating with passion

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I love to facilitate – both facilitation in the pure sense helping a group develop a new strategic plan or way to work together, to facilitation of workshops which include delivery of some material and lots of activities which draw on the knowledge and experience of the participants to deepen learning.

It’s been 12 months since I started Workshops with Wow and it has been an exciting year for me, I have travelled to many parts of rural Australia and New Zealand working with wonderful rural people dedicated to agriculture and rural life. It is so inspiring to see the passion of people for their industry, group or organisation and to play a small part in their ongoing development.

My work with the Agri-Women’s Development Trust in NZ has provided me with a unique opportunity to work with NZ rural women. As I have fortunate to be part of them learning to “own their skills and talents” and identify their passions – I have also developed a deeper understanding of myself, my passion for people development and ownership of my skills.

Facilitating with my life and business partner, Bill, on farmer decision making and extension and adoption in the grains industry has been a highlight. We hope to continue this into the future – traveling together instead of in different directions – combining our interests of people and agriculture.

Writing this blog has provided me with the opportunity to share my passion and desire to enhance adult learning and facilitation – particularly in rural and regional areas.

Thankyou for following my blog and sharing in my journey I have really appreciated your comments, emails and personal feedback and look forward to continuing the facilitation discussion. Please feel free to share my blog with your friends and colleagues.

May 2013 be an exciting fulfilling year for you all – Jeanette

A career in agriculture?

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Young people choosing agriculture as a career is a continuing problem. At many of the sessions I facilitate in rural Australia it’s a burning topic – participants focus heavily on the students…

“How can we encourage high school students to consider ag?”

I have been giving the topic a lot of thought as my own children enter the university age – with two parents in the industry both are pursuing different career paths. During our sons primary school years we were in drought and by the age of 15 he said “who would want to be a farmer  – look how stressed you two are.”

Hmmmm…. what is the impact of environment and are we targeted the wrong timing? Let’s take a bigger view of the issue. Who and what are the key influencers of children’s choice of career? A couple of ideas are front of mind for me.

1.Age – targeting high school students is too late. Values and beliefs are laid down by the time they are in high school, I believe the key time to influence thinking is earlier than this…. Start the process in primary school during formative years.

2. Teachers have a large impact on our children’s thinking – many teachers do not have an interest in, or understand agriculture. A friend recently told me about his daughter who had decided to study ag and how she was actively discouraged by not only the teachers but also the career councillor.

3. Parents… I am going to focus here on mothers (my mother had a big influence on my choices). I have worked with 100’s of women on farms over my career and sadly many of them are not very happy. They fall in love with a man, marry him, the farm, the family and the business. Some families embrace the daughter in law, however many do not. Many women live in someone else’s home which they can’t make their own, live on a shoe string budget and work very hard. Poor succession planning often alienates them further. These young mothers are a key influencer of their children during their formative years – what are the subconscious messages that are being passed on?

At a workshop recently one of the women told me she was not encouraging her children to farm.

Yes agriculture is not limited to farming – there are thousands of careers in the industry – is this message really getting out there and to the key influencers?

Lots of issues here … what we need is a new perspective –  look at the impact of key influencers, timing, subconscious messages and some of the social fabric of how the industry operates.

What are your thoughts?

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Feedback

Feedback – it’s something we all like to have so we can improve .. even though sometimes we might not like what we hear!

Good constructive feedback helps us grow and learn, develop our skills and become better at what we do. Without it we may tend to keep doing what we have always done because it works for us.

I like to evaluate every workshop using several techniques if possible. These might include

  • Finishing off the day with an ORID – this is asking an Objective, Reflective, Interpretive and Decisional question of the group, it aims to captures the facts, feelings, key messages and changes.
  • If there isn’t time for an ORID …as a minimum asking for a closing comment from everyone
  • Evaluation forms
  • On-line surveys
  • Discussion with a co-facilitator or trusted colleague  (who you know will be honest!) What worked well? What could be done differently?
  • Contact a participant or two after the event and check in with them. Plan a few questions rather than having a general conversation. I like to know what they have implemented or changed since attending the workshop.
  • A self evaluation – if we are really honest with ourselves we know when things have gone well or could have been better – I like to think this through and make some notes in my journal to refer back to. Remember can be our own worst critic so don’t be too hard on yourself!

I’d really like to hear from all of you about feedback ..

  • What is the best way to get the feedback?
  • Are you really honest on evaluation forms?
  • Is it better to reflect and then provide feedback via an online survey later?
  • Will you complete a survey after you have left the workshop or is this too late?
  • What is the best way for a facilitator to receive honest feedback from you?

Finally as Ken Solly told us at an Adaptive Management workshop last week – “Milk every mistake for all it’s worth.”

Looking forward to hearing some thoughts …..

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