Newsletter, February 2007
Contents this month
At the coal face: running face-to-face workshops
This is the third and last in a series of articles about how we work,
written by those who actually manage the process. In each article,
one of our project managers describes their own experience of
a major branch of our work.
This month Amy Sanders describes the experience
of running face-to-face workshops.
Once more unto the breach dear friends…
You never know exactly what to expect with a face-to-face workshop.
You know that preparation is key, so you have done your stakeholder
analysis, you’ve spoken to one or two potential participants
and have even brainstormed some of the issues that might come up.
You have met with the client, probably several times, and gone
over the history of their relationship with the participants and
what it is they want to get out of the day. You have prepared an
extremely detailed process plan covering exactly what will be happening
at 11:25 in which breakout room and with which people.
You have brought every conceivable colour of marker pen, a mountain
of carefully blue-tacked flipchart sheets, post-it notes of all
shapes and sizes and sticky dots in rainbow hues.
You have arranged the room, re-arranged the room, adjusted the
lighting, opened the windows and set up the PowerPoint presentation.
But when the people arrive you can’t help having a ‘butterflies
in my tummy’ moment.
Will there be an almighty set-to between the NGO representative
and the PR guy from the big corporation? Will the lady from the
WI and the teenage skateboarder clash? Will the parish councillor
and the local MP be at each others’ throats? Will I be faced with
total silence? Will half the participants walk out at lunchtime?
The answer is usually, but by no means always, no.
If all has gone to plan then, at the end of the day, you have
challenged assumptions, asked the right questions, probed what
is really behind the answers, and managed whatever conflict arose,
all the while managing to capture the key points for the essential
flipchart record. The participants have left feeling it was worth
the effort, even if they didn’t get their way all the time,
the clients are amazed that they were not completely savaged by
the so-called ‘difficult’ attendees, and they have
got something really useful they can take away from the meeting.
And the facilitator? Well the feelings are mixed - there
is relief that it’s finished and no one lost their rag, satisfaction
that the process worked and you have delivered for the client.
But sometimes that’s tinged with a little tiny bit of disappointment
that there were no major dramas for you to step in and resolve ‘super-hero’ style.
Your feet hurt, your back aches, your hands are decorated with
permanent marker pen, but its over, it worked. Now who promised
to type all of that up by next week again??