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 session. 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!Strategy 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 blueprint 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!
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.
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.
Strategy No. 4 – Put on your participants-hat!
Remember 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!
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. Create 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.
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!