Facilitating great activities takes some planning
09 Saturday Feb 2013
I always find it exciting to sit down and develop a lesson plan for a course, workshop or presentation and visualize how everything is going to fall together. Of course, it’s not something that happens in one sitting – often creating lesson plans is the culmination of many weeks, days or hours’ worth of thought and research before I put hands to keyboard (or “pen to paper”, as some of my predecessors in the field might have said) to begin creating my plan.
During planning of a lesson I often can “see” how a particular activity or element is going to work out, but then other times I’m not so sure but just want to try it anyway based on something I’ve read or heard about. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have seen a particular activity being run by another facilitator which gives me a better idea of how the same activity could play out when applied to my own contexts and topics.
An activity that I used this past week was one such thing. Last year I attended a graphic facilitation course and participated in a “resistance/response” activity (my words) around the class’s feelings toward making art. The facilitator led us first through capturing the negative stories we tell ourselves about creating art – which she recorded (not surprisingly) on large chart paper at the front of the room, and then next led us through an exercise to talk us down from that scary little negative response ledge. We were to focus on the positive stories we would tell ourselves instead of the negative ones. She used the word “resistance” for the first part and “response” for the second. The activity worked brilliantly and I immediately saw that I could use a similar type of activity in my own work.
It wasn’t a month later that I was able to do so, in facilitating Camosun College’s Fundamentals of Event & Conference Management course. One night of the class we talk about budgeting and I thought that the resistance/response exercise might work perfectly to start our discussion. I had often heard from colleagues in the nonprofit field that they were freaked out about budgets (because nobody had ever taught them how to do one) so I wondered if this activity would help alleviate perhaps similar fears of people who wanted to manage events.
It totally did. I used the activity during last year’s event management class and this past week used it again. (My friend and I are currently teaching the second offering of this course through Camosun.) We asked the class to take a couple of minutes of self-reflection to think about where they felt resistance to budgeting and then we captured their comments on large chart paper at the front of the room. Right away the class was able to share – using “I statements” – their hesitations and downright fears about creating budgets, using Excel, and having tough conversations with supervisors and clients about money, and especially the limitations of it sometimes and its impact on events. And then we talked about our “response” – what we were going to tell ourselves instead of those negatives stories. That having a budget gives us a plan, that we can draw on resources (people, books, websites, courses) to educate ourselves more, and so on.
I’ve decided I love this exercise because it gets at emotions instead of numbers, first and foremost. It’s a great way to ease into the topic and perhaps get past some of the “icky” feelings (ie. “I’m not good enough” sort of feelings) that can hold us back when learning something new. My only regret is that we could have used more time to delve deeply into the positive, solution-focused pieces, but alas, we did have to talk about revenues, expenses and all the other good bits having to do with the nuts and bolts of the topic. But I think it was a good start and it was because we had planned it that way.
As always, every time I facilitate something I learn a little bit more about this craft, people and the way they engage and learn, and my own role in the whole shebang. (And that timing of lesson plan activities is an art in itself!)