A Trainer in the Candy Store

As trainers, we struggle with quite a few challenges. I will share with you some tips and tricks for the most common difficulties trainers and facilitators face. Today let’s talk about a quirky one; The wish to cover it ALL!

There is all this information that we dig on a particular subject that lays like small shiny diamonds before us, and we are tempted to share it all in our 45 minutes img_1008session. Or you just finished this facilitation book, and there are a million and one methods you want to try out NOW! And sometimes it is the anxiety of not covering enough to make it an active and engaging training.

As important as this urge is because it shows how passionate we are about our trainer work, it bears several problems and risks. An essential one is we could overwhelm our participants with both information and methods and deprive them
of the space to learn and grow on their own. We could even slip back into facilitating in a formal educational way and shooting our participants right back to their school time. We also could risk to lose them and run through topic after topic just touching them superficially.

I for sure made this experiences a million and one times! Over time I came up with ways to restrain this urge and use it to my advantage!img_0979Strategy No. 1 – Go big and bold!

When we led our trainer-brain play around it comes up with the most astonishing ways to structure workshops. Let’s use this creative tickle and go big and bold. Plan a img_1007blueprint session outline with EVERYTHING. Pack all the methods and subtopics in there and do not care about the time frame. Pretend you can keep your participants forever.

Now that our first urge to stuff it all in is satisfied look at the blueprint you came up with. What are the highlights? What sounds the most fun? What are details you can leave out? What might not work out as you imagine it? Go with your gut and trust your educational instinct. Cut back until everything fits nicely in your timeframe and feels right for you. And the best about it is, that you just created a huge stash of session elements which you can use in another training!

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Strategy No. 2 – Stick to your session objectives and learning outcomes!

Do you remember that I wrote in my last post about that at the beginning of every planning process you carefully draft session objective and learning outcomes? Use them to your advantage. The approach is a bit more technical but works well if you are particularly passionate about a topic.

Write all your objectives and outcomes on a sheet of paper or in a file on your computer. Now go over each of them and list all the information needed to achieve them. Be strict with yourself and stick to the essential. Keep all the left out diamonds for another workshop.

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Strategy No. 3 – Allow yourself a Plan B!

This strategy is an excellent approach for when you have this one method or exercise that you at all cost want to try out, but it does not fit into the session too well. Plan your session straight forward and put this tiny delicious extra as an additional point on your trainer agenda. Mark which planned exercise could be replaced with it.

While you facilitate, sense if it the group would be open for it and if the time allows to slip it. The Plan B exercise could turn a workshop around completely and help a group that is stuck in its process. Also, it gives you a buffer exercise if the participants work faster than you anticipated.

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Strategy No. 4 – Put on your participants-hat!

img_1012Remember the four hats from my last post? Now it is time to put on your participants-hat! It will help you to calm down your trainer mind and heart, which
are overflowing with ideas and excitement.

Start with looking at the information you have about your participants. What is their (organisational) background? Will they feel comfortable with the methods you chose? Also, think about their interests and expectations. Just because you are utterly fascinated by one aspect of the topic does not mean they are interested in it at all. It is further essential that you make space for self-exploration and -learning. Remember, nonformal education is all about the participants!

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Strategy No. 5 – Let’s get creative!

Strategy No. 5 is definitively my favourite approach! Use methods of Visual Facilitation to illustrate the information and aspects which are not directly covered in the session. As a trainer, we often forget that there is more to a venue than the room and setup we work in. It is important that we use every space and thing given to us.

For example, create posters and flip-charts and set them up outside your workshop room. This way your participants can use the time before you get started or during the breaks to discover the exhibition and get an additional inspirational boost. img_1010Create exciting handouts or even a small magazine. The possibilities are endless!

How about creating a Tree of Curiosity? Hang a drawing of a tree up on a wall or pin board. Prepare a bunch of leaves that you tape all over the branches of your tree. One side of each leave has a title and the other some information about it. Make sure you have multiple of each. Encourage your participants to pick leaves that they are interested in it. This way they have something they can learn from but also take with them as a reminder. For you as a trainer, it also comes handy if you have a workshop over several days. You could see a pattern in the topics they picked and adjust your training in accordance.

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In this post, you saw that there are many ways to keep in check your inner trainer when she wants to go wild on a topic. You can approach the subject more technically by sticking close to your objectives and refine your participants-focus. You can add additional exercises into your training outline as a bonus for yourself. Or you go all the way. Create a giant blueprint session or grab deep into the Visual Facilitation treasure chest!

Whatever way you choose, remember each session is not about you but what you can do for and with the participants!

Do you have other techniques to tackle the wish to cover it all? Or do you struggle with something else and are curious how I cope with it? Let me know in the comments below or on social media. I love to hear from you!

Let’s facilitate change together!

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How the heck do you do this? – Start of the ‘How to plan a Training’ series

Ever wondered how the trainer of the workshop you are sitting in right now came up with the methods she is using? Or do you know the overwhelming feeling that can overtake you as a facilitator when you get a new topic and do not know where to start?

img_0977-2I know both feeling quite well! Over time I developed a method to plan each of my training.

In this upcoming series of blog posts, I want to give you some insights into this planning process. I will show you how to get to all the information you need to get started, walk you through the steps to design a holistic learning journey for the participants and choose the methods that ensure the wished outcomes.

Of course, I will not dump all this information on you in just one post! The first part of this series will give you a general overview of the different steps, along side some tips and tricks.

My planning process consists of four main stages. Everything begins with the topic or theme of the training. From there, I develop the training objectives and learning outcomes. The second step is to take the objectives and create a learning journey for the participants. Out of this roadmap, I identify the thematic building blocks; to finally choose the concrete methods that are the backbone of the training.

But let’s start at the beginning!

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From the topic to the training objectives and

For me, this first phase is the most client or host intensive step of all four. You will want to take as much time as needed with your partner to break down the topic as precisely as possible. Do not let them escape with: ‘The training shall be about feminism.’ If they did not formulate them themselves, you should help to define the objectives and to set learning outcomes as tangible as possible.IMG_0976

Besides the thematic information, it is crucial in this step that you get as much information as possible regarding participants, time and place of the training and the background of your partners themselves, like general aims and objectives of organisation or company. A training for five participants looks entirely different from one for fifty. Also, it is necessary to know the age group and background of the participants.

Try to put yourself as soon as possible in the shoes of the participants. While you are discussing the objectives and outcomes with your partners, always try to imagine the participants’ expectation alongside. There is a ton of methods on how to define objectives. It will be the subject of a detailed post later.

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From the objectives to the design of a learning journey

This step is all about the participants and their experience during the training! It is important to create an experience as smooth as possible, where the predatory effortIMG_0989
is not visible to the participants. Therefore I always aim to find a narrative for the training, a story the group will build together. To do so, you need to identify how the
objectives build up on each other and what is important to experience before you open another aspect. It might be necessary to go back to the objectives at that point to adjust them.

Like in every good story always make sure there are no loose ends, and everything serves a purpose. The participants do not to see the connections immediately each time, but a final Aha-moment is crucial. We will come back to this in a later post of this series.

Pro-tip: If I have to plan a training over several days, I choose a topic for each day.

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From the learning journey to the thematic building blocks

After outlining the learning journey for the participants, focus on the topic and thematic of the training. I start with identifying thematic clusters along the way and structure the informative material accordingly. List the key terms and concepts thatIMG_0976 need to be established and the skills that need to be developed or extended.

Sometimes you might discover that the logical connections between the individual blocks do not work. In this cases, you need to go back and revise the design of the learning journey. The clearer and more natural the structure is the fewer surprises you will end up having during the facilitation. This whole step will be covered in more depth in the fourth part of this series.

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From the building blocks to the selection of methods

Now the fun part begins!! I love to go through methods and pick the diamonds for
each training I facilitate! Sometimes, I finally find the right spot for the new methods IMG_0990I wanted to try for so long! What a sweet feeling

But, as with everything nice, there is the backlash as well! To minimise the risks, you should review your first selection of methods and ask yourself some questions. What
learning types do the methods address? What personally types? Do they work naturally with the rest of the session ?? Do they achieve the objectives and generate the learning outcome? But also, will the participants and you have fun? Is there enough time and space for down time? And, are you brave enough with your selection? 😉 We will speak about this in all extend in the fifth and last part of this series. I am already excited!!

Pro tip: Because I never know how exactly the group and the on the spot mood of each session will be, I always bring some Plan B methods alongside to the training!

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So there they are my four steps on how to tackle any training. They are like four hats I put on. I start with the hat of the client or host and define what the aims of the img_0976training are and what information is needed. Then I put on the hat of the participants and ask myself what will be the experience during the training. With the topic hat in the third step, I discover what information and which skill is need when. And finally with my favourite hat – the hat of the methods – I choose which method will serve the participants and their learning the best.

How about you? How do you tackle a new training, workshop or session? Let me know in the comments below. Which of the four steps would be your favourite?!

Let’s facilitate Change together!

Do you need more Facilitation in your Life?!

What can you learn from a twenty-something who just found her purpose in life but also didn’t manage to strive in the formal education system? Quite a lot!

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I will share with you the lessons I learned through my lifelong learning and self-education. I will show you how to use the ups but more important the downs of your life as an inspiration and powerhouse to aim to fulfil your life’s purpose. With this first post, I would like to give you some insights into my life and my professional aspiration.

To start off, I do not consider myself a failure of the formal education system. More correctly, it failed me, as it does with so many. Just being in the early stages of my life I already went through enough hard times to fill at least two books. The German education as formal as it is was never able to adjust or even just address this nonlinear path I am on. These leaves me with an education to become a teacher for mathematics and arts so unfinished that it does not allow me to enter any labour market niche. I am an educational enthusiast and a progressive thinker with strong political and ethical beliefs. My life’s path and the expectations of today’s society just made me stumble and lose my very own way out of sight.

But then Mollina happened!

In September 2016, the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) invited me to their Training for Trainer to Mollina, Spain. We were a small group of political activists from all corners of the globe, not knowing what we got ourself into. BUT – as everyone who ever was in Mollina knows – Mollina does something with you! For me, it was as someone kicked open a door that was locked and hidden behind sleeping beauty like rose bushes. It introduces the world of nonformal education to IMG_9862me, which was the answer to all my struggles during studying school education at the university. It satisfied a longing of my soul for a more holistic approach to human growth and development. It put my way right back under my feets again!

After I had completed the Training of Trainers, I became one of the founding members of the IUSY Pool of Trainers together with my comrades and now friends. Ever since I conducted training sessions for IUSY, the Young European Socialist and my home organisation on a broad range of topics. In this, I found my purpose. I wanted to shift existing systems, yes, even the whole world with the measures and methods that nonformal education provides. Here my strong educational predisposition, which once led me to choose my academic career, helped me out. In short time I was able to establish an extensive knowledge of methods, approaches and so on, to adopt visual facilitation skills and become a liked and appreciated trainer, by both partners and participants.

The participants are the centre of my training philosophy. I do not aim just to transfer information and knowledge; moreover, I want to facilitate change and growth within them. I am to reach my participants not just on a cognitive level but more important on an emotional and empathic level. Therefore I call my training practice affective facilitation. In the sessions, I aim to create a sense of belonging to an extended community but also the recognition of each participant’s individuality within this network. I am for a learning process that starts with the creation of an understanding of the individual capabilities and knowledge existing in the group. After that, I choose methods to empower the participants to see connections and similarities and finally to enable them to construct independent of me a shared knowledge and abilities based on this.

These thoughts guide me in the creation of my training sessions and seminars and the choice of practices and methods. I practice for example appreciative inquiry, the circle way and include methods like open space, storytelling and other forms of creative expression. My good working knowledge of different areas allows me toIMG_0483
adapt and learn rapidly about various academic and non-academic fields. Therefore the range of my topics reaches from personal and organisational development to such as climate change, labour or human rights.

Now, with this blog, I want to reach out beyond my usual partners and create a platform to promote nonformal education. I will share my knowledge and tell my stories as trainer and facilitator but also as a lifelong learner myself here. As well I am longing for an exchange with other learners and facilitators to discover new approaches and practices. From time to time I hope to be able to give the stage to other amazing trainers I meet along my way.

But most important I want to get input and feedback from you, the reader, on my methods and practices to keep growing and to be able to write about what interests you!

Let’s facilitate change together!