Again, I’m not a fan of a “warm up” or those getting-to-know-each-other “games” favoured by smiling trainers to manipulate a group into obedient acquiescence. Participants at workshops or conferences are not there to be part of my group dynamic process: they want to benefit from the content. However, as facilitators we know that creating a constructive group dynamic will contribute to that generation of good content and thus benefit each participant. So let’s make sure the on-boarding or “transfer-in” benefits both group and content. It’s an enabler, not a game. The fun is a byproduct – it’s not the aim.
This is something I tried out for the first time at a workshop where a diverse set of entrepreneurs came together in an open space to build an enabling community for their businesses. What followed was a classical open space agenda setting.
And this is what we did to get people focussed on the content, the group and their process:
1) Names and faces – a blitz round of introductions (this can be tedious and meaningless if dragged out. Get people to stand and they’re quicker)
2) Participants are encouraged to move around the room (making it theirs). They are invited to continue moving between the following stages.
3) Introduce the 1st of 5 stages: “Beam! Think about what makes you proud right now. What you’ve achieved. [after a while] Look around at all the self-esteem in the room.”
4) Introduce the 2nd of 5 stages: “Shout! Shout out all the things that are troubling and angering you and making you crazy. [after a while – it’s noisy!] Let’s use this energy today for something positive!”
5) Introduce the 3rd of 5 stages: “Whisper! Share a secret, a confession, an unripe thought with someone you meet in this room – keep it quiet – whisper into your partner’s ear. [after a while] Hear the seeds grow.”
6) Introduce the 4th of 5 stages: “Question! Ask someone else your question – the question you carry around with you. Don’t get or expect an answer, but listen to your partner’s question in return and neither give not think about the answer. [after a while] Feel the burden shared.
7) Introduce the 5th of 5 stages: “Thank! Silently formulate your concrete gratitude towards someone for something that has helped your business to grow. [after a while] Offer the floor to individual participants who would like to voice their thanks.
This process takes about 30 minutes in all and provided our group with an ideal framework and foundation for the ensuing thematic discussion – a mixture of trust and relationships, quiet reflection and openness, as well as individual and group confidence and humility.