Have you ever had the experience of an inner shift beginning once you’ve committed to some important future action? This might be enrolling in a spiritual retreat, an intensive personal growth program, a graduate program, a commitment to counseling or coaching, etc.
This is testament to the fact that whatever we put our attention on grows. When we begin to to be “witness” to our own self-awareness, skills, attitudes, or behaviors, they have a way of self-adjusting. Consequently, our capacity for change and development around a point of focus intensifies.
I find that there are some relatively easy and useful things we can do with our groups before we actually meet. These activities can be as simple as suggesting ways for participants to begin to shift their attention in the direction of the work they’re about to do with their upcoming workshop. We’ve included some ideas below you might like to consider when setting the stage for your future groups.
Start Facilitating Your Group Before You Meet
1. Suggest certain books or articles to read. Send these suggestions to participants before the workshop giving them enough time to read and digest them. Include short articles, summaries, or key points for those who might not have time to read a lot before hand. You may also pose a couple of questions for them to consider as they reflect on their reading in service to your work together.
2. Create a set of sequential questions, that build upon each other, to evoke thinking about the topic. Send them to the participants using a sequential autoresponder. Either collect the answers and use them as part of the meeting documentation or just pose them as a way to stimulate thinking in preparation for your workshop.
3. Suggest listening to musical selections. Consider the emotional tone that certain musical pieces might elicit to align participants with the theme of your work together. These pieces can be reused in your workshop to recall and reinforce this tone while you’re engaged in the work. Here’s a site that offers a good overview of how to use various musical styles in presentations: www.slideshare.net/yannkee502/making-presentation-music
4. Suggest viewing a movie or a segment of a movie. Movies can have a powerful impact on us. Imagine assigning movies for participants to watch prior to coming to your workshop. For example, think about the movie, “Dead Poet’s Society ,” and how it could be used to reflect on innovative and inspiring training approaches. Consider the barn raising scene from “Witness” in support of team-building. Or think about how “Phenomenon” made you feel about what human’s are capable of.
5. Prepare your group with a fresh, provocative and inspiring performance work. A close friend of mine and true Master Facilitator, Debbie Phillips, once led a workshop called, “Igniting The Possibilities Within You” in New York City. In preparation for this workshop the night before, she hosted a private performance of a fabulous play called “Women On Fire” by playwright Irene O’Garden. By doing this, Debbie created a rich context to draw upon with the group the next day.
6. Use technology to begin community building. In many of my classes, I begin to get people engaged about a week before the class starts. I direct everyone to a class blog and invite introductions, query people about what they want out of the class, and inspire interaction so that people get a sense of each other before the official start of the class. This gives the group a head start in breaking the ice, and gives me a head start in getting to know them and tailoring the class to their needs.
7. Have a series of specific pre-meetings to prepare the group for the main event. These meetings can focus on preparing the group for one specific aspect of the larger overall meeting. For example, you and your participants might find it very useful to know and understand their Myers-Briggs Temperaments or Learning Styles prior to engaging in deeper work with the group.
8. Hold pre-event interviews with the participants. By asking the participants specific and probing questions around the meeting subjects, the facilitator can begin stimulating thinking about topics to be covered. This is also a powerful tool for discovering where the group happens to be around the topics to be covered.
What could you do to more effectively “set the stage” for your future workshop? We’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts, stories, and experiences in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!