As a facilitator, one of the fundamental skills is managing the energy and pace of the session. To ensure forward momentum. It’s hard for people to stay energised and focused throughout an entire workshop. Particularly if it lasts all day. Often we resort to energisers. Short exercises and games, designed to boost the energy in workshops. Yet, how can we do this without having to? Here’s a few tips.
1 Use the entire meeting space
As soon as you arrive at the venue, work out how you can use the entire space available. Before the session begins. re-arrange it to make movement easier. Take down pictures from the walls if necessary. take ownership and make sure it works for you.
Often people spend sessions stuck in the same position, looking in the same direction. Taking the opportunity to move the focal point of the meeting creates energy. Ask people to present from different parts of the room. Post material in different spaces on the wall. Ask people to move outside or in the cafe area can make the meeting feel more dynamic. As soon as you arrive at the venue, work out how you can use the entire space available
2 Introduce an element of competition
People are competitive. They love to win, no matter how trivial the reward - the more trivial the better. Encouraging healthy competition keeps people engaged and focused. You can do this via quizzes, awards for the best presentations, rewards for good behaviour. Keep it light, keep it fun and people will engage. I find spot prizes work well too. Prizes for the tidiest table, the first team back from the break. If you’re working abroad bring sweets / chocolates from your own country. People go mad for them.
3 The judicious use of music
I tend not to use music during workshop exercises as for some people it can be distracting. But playing background music as people enter the room creates a positive upbeat vibe. Do it over coffee and the lunch break too. Choose your playlist carefully. Use Spotify to help you. Don’t rely on your personal favourites and beware of the age of the audience. Not everyone will share your taste. Experience has taught me that if in doubt, you can’t wrong with the ‘80s. I have my playlist called ‘Workshop Vibe’ on Spotify that I update all the time. It gives the impression that I’m in touch with the youngsters and with the latest tunes.
4 Keep working sessions short
As a general rule, never keep people still for more than 15-20 mins. Keep presentations to a minimum. Keep exercises very focused. Make sure feedback sessions are punchy. People’s attention spans are very short nowadays so don’t allow them to drift off. Once you’ve got beyond 15-20 mins people start getting twitchy. Find a way to break it up.
5 Ask questions
People like to talk more than they like to listen. Encourage this via adopting a range of questioning styles. This way people will stay engaged with the content and take part . It forces them to pay attention and stops them zoning out or playing with their phones.
6 Keep to time
People lose focus if they’re kept hanging around. Make sure you start and finish on time. If you promise to finish at 5pm, make sure you don’t go on until 530. Aim to finish early. People will thank you for it. I have a golden rule. Give time back, never take it away.
So to sum up. Always, always, be sensitive to the energy in the room. If you senses it’s dipping, then do something about it, even it’s not on the agenda. As a facilitator it’s one of your primary responsibilities. And finally it’s worth remembering that creating the right energy starts with you. The more energy you give, the more energy you’ll get back