Figuring things out on the fly

Dark blazers are a newbie facilitator’s friend. No one could see me perspire as I wondered what to do. My session wasn’t working. The exercise structure I picked didn’t fit the energy and interest of the room. I needed to improvise.

Fortunately, my team helped me out. One of my colleagues asked a question that was really a hint about one thing we could try, so I latched onto it. That was better, but not quite all the way there. He suggested something else, I wove that suggestion in, and that worked. People got up and discussed the personas. At the end of the session, one of the clients asked if all of that would be summarized and sent to them: value!

It’s scary getting up there in front of a group, but it’s a darn good way to learn. My team helps me stretch and learn by giving me opportunities to facilitate workshop sessions and coordinate online brainstorming conversations. Over the past two years, I’ve surprised myself by having opinions, ideas, and even answers when people ask me about topics. And it’s awesome doing this with experienced people who can step in and smooth things over.

Maybe this is why large companies can be great learning environments. You’re surrounded by people with years of experience and a vested interest in helping the team succeed, so you end up learning tons along the way. =)

  • @sachac Up in front of an audience, the sense of time for the speaker isn’t the same as the sense of time of the audience. A pause feels like an eternity for the speaker, but that momentary break in the talk gives the audience the opportunity to catch up on the ideas and reflect on the points that were just maide.

    I’ve learned a lot by teaching university students. I’ll ask a question, and then I’ll wait … and wait … and wait. The silence sometimes builds up a discomfort, but then the wheels in the minds of the audience begin to turn, and the conversation continues.

    I often have other colleagues or experts when I’m doing presentations. Having a different voice interject related or slightly tangential ideas also helps the audience to process ideas. Hearing one voice for a long period of time tends to work against concentration. Human beings are programmed for interaction, and if we can’t interact directly with a speaker, a surrogate sometimes helps. This is why interviews often work better than lectures.