Creative Facilitation means thinking differently about how to actively engage people in a meeting, training workshop or during a presentation. The aim is for those attending to get the most out of it and for your hard work be worthwhile.
Psychology tells us we are all motivated by our feelings. Every interaction causes automatic thoughts influenced by our beliefs, values and memories. These make us feel a certain way, which influences the actions we take based on whether our feelings are good or not. Have you considered how to make people feel good during your event / workshop / meeting?
We remember events and information best when our emotions are heightened. Think of your favourite teacher at school – what was their teaching style like? Does the word ‘fun’ come to mind? I fondly remember the day Mr Pickett arrived at the high school I attended, plonking his briefcase on the table and announcing cheerfully: ‘Pickett’s the name, teaching’s the game - have chalk, will travel.’ And so began three years full of interactive adventure where we had so much fun we forgot we were learning.
How to make your meetings FUN, even when the subject matter isn’t
- Humour gets people engaged and sparks creative thinking. Can you or an attendee share a funny story at the start - something that’s happened that week at work? Just spending a few minutes on this connects and relaxes everyone in the room, helping them to shake off their day so far, and be present. Humour is a fun distraction that enables the brain to re-focus.
- Can you have coloured markers and paper available for drawing or writing creative solutions together, or for simply taking notes? Incidentally having ‘old school’ pen and paper available is better for you not just because it means less distraction from taking notes on a laptop or a phone, but hand-writing notes activates more pathways in the brain. We process the information better and remember it for longer as we actively summarise key points during the act of note-taking. To find out more about the science behind this read.
- Can you have cake? The answer to this question is always YES. We’re shamelessly exploiting the Pavlov’s dog model of classic conditioning here. It’s simple; when people associate your meetings with delicious food, they will be more motivated to turn up and be on time, so they don’t miss out. And of course, sharing food in a group is a great way for people to connect and break down social barriers.
How to make your visuals enticing without being a design whizz
- Use the same easy-to-read font throughout and use key words and phrases ONLY, i.e. don’t create slides that you are going to read out verbatim.
- Use clear images to reinforce or compliment your message. The old adage a ‘picture paints a thousand words’ still rings true. To create even more impact consider images that are a little bit different, that use colour and humour, or that have an emotional connection to people in the room.
- Its OK to ask for help. Preview your presentation to a colleague whose judgement you trust for feedback so you can make final tweaks.
And finally, be yourself
Whaaaat? Have I been watching saccharine Hollywood films about how to ‘follow your dreams’? Noooo, hear me out. When a facilitator or presenter tries to be someone other than who they are, or adopt a style they think they should use at work that simply doesn’t suit them, we sniff it out quicker than a fart in a lift. And then we switch off.
Authenticity is key when facilitating. It makes people relax and feel comfortable and they believe in you and your subject. This might mean wearing clothes that are more ‘you’ (yes, I know, company policy permitting), and talking in a more conversational style (as you would to friends). Storytelling is a wonderful ancient human skill that brings us together and creates better understanding. Consider if you have any real-life stories that bring your message to life.
Sorry but you can’t wing it
Yes, be ready to improvise and adapt to the unexpected in the moment, but it is still essential to plan ahead. Remember at the start I said we are all motivated by the way we feel? Putting the time in ahead of schedule will make you feel a lot more confident and comfortable facilitating your event with peace of mind that you have all the necessary resources in place, and the relevant content ready.