Listen to my broken record titled, “Facilitators Challenge”.
Tracks include: Challenge, Improve, Triumph.
It will automatically REPEAT.
Over the years I’ve noted several reoccurring challenges when preparing and facilitating workshops – these are related to engagement, reaching objectives, limited and changing timing and logistics.
Engagement: Big group dynamics are always a bit more challenging. Often times, a large participant group compromises group dynamics and therefore impacts the workshop objective or output. With a large group in a plenary, for example, you lose tight and reactive dynamics, which are healthy and useful for dialogue and advancing topics. Furthermore, if it is a very large group, even breakout sessions suffer and inevitably require more time.
Ambitious outputs & Time: The goals specifically for workshop are often ambitious so the allocated time for sessions isn’t always ideal nor sufficient, therefore deep dive discussions are not possible, and it can result in superficial conversations. Re-arranging the agenda and considering the participant dynamics and the session output, can allow for richer, fuller conversations in smaller groups.
Venue & Registration: Logistical constraints are inevitable, so it is best to be prepared in advance, scope out the venue, speak with catering and have some back up plans in place in the case of complete power shortage or kitchen fire! Often, keeping cool and collected, is enough to set the tone in emergency situations, and as your momma taught you, “honesty is the best policy”, so if the wi-fi is not going to get better, let the participants know so it is anticipated and not a distraction or frustration throughout your workshop.
Keep in mind facilitation is a process, so always review and evaluate your workshop and note improvements for the next time:
Take inputs into the agenda and program until a set date and then have the final agenda more in advance.
Ensure clarity among the project and leaders involved on the purpose and objectives of the workshop.
Set strict numbers for maximum participants and a strict deadline for registration.
Inevitably, obstacles are thrown into the mix when facilitating a workshop, the following points can rescue you when you think there is no solution, so you can triumph each time.
Be very clear before you start day 1 on your role as the facilitator.
Aim for thoughtful preparation before the workshop. If needed, obtain meaningful inputs from participants.
If possible, select a team that is open-minded, agile and flexible, so that agenda adjustments and onsite concerns can be managed on the spot without too much suffering.
Empower your participants from the moment you open the workshop, as this will ensure an interactive and participatory approach.
Communicate. Communicate and Communicate. And, did I say Communicate? Good communications leading up to and throughout the workshop can not be overlooked. Clear directions on the process of the overall workshop and each session will be appreciated by participants and allow for a steady overall flow.
Take the pulse throughout the workshop and as a best practice, build in a daily debrief with the organizers to make required adjustments and respond to participant dynamics and ultimately reach objectives.