What toast has to do with Public Speaking – Toastmasters Tuesday

On a hot and muggy May evening, I stumbled into an even hotter and muggier top floor of a co-working space in Brussels. I had signed up for a Communication and Leadership Training via a MeetUp group. The event was hosted by a Toastmasters club.

In my tired and sunburned brain, I was wondering what toast had to do with communication and leadership and how do you master a toast. . That’s when I discover that there is a global organisation dedicated to empowering individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders, called Toastmasters International.

So what is this Toastmaster International? According to their website, they are a world leader in communication and leadership development bringing together more ha bogomil-mihaylov-519207-unsplash357,000 members in local clubs all over the world. Their local clubs hold frequent meetings in which members can train their skills in impromptu speeches, the so-called table topic, or with prepared ones.

Just recently Toastmaster International launched a new educational programme called Pathways. In the programme, you can follow one of ten learning path which trains you up to 300 distinct competencies. Some of the different tracks are Dynamic Leadership, Motivational Strategies, Innovative Planning and Team Collaboration.

The club I joined is called Atomium Toastmasters of Brussels after the symbol of the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair and is  Dutch and English speaking. The members create a cosy and compassionate environment which is extremely welcoming and supportive.

I felt welcome and secure from the first meeting on. It feels more like a small bubbly family despite the necessary formality of the exercise. Never was a speaker let down or received a harsh and unjustified evaluation. Everyone values the efforts and development of the others. The speakers are cheered, and all new members are encouraged to get in touch with a more experienced speaker to be their mentor.

I was toying with the idea of joining a public speaking training for a while by then. Many people told me that I am a good speaker, but it all was more intuitive than planned. I was interested in systematising my approach and using it as an effective tool in my practice. Maybe even training people in public speaking myself down the road. Beyond that, I developed in recent years the longing to share my story with a broader audience. As trainer and facilitator, my role is more neutral and passive, but I also wanted to put myself out there and speak about topics that matter to me.antenna-503044-unsplash

So why I am sharing this with you here? As I mentioned in my last week’s post, I want to widen the scope of Affective Facilitation to give all my interest a home in it. Also, I believe Public Speaking is strongly connected with Facilitation as practice. We as facilitator stand in front of groups and speak all the time. To communicate effectively and efficiently is a crucial skill for us. We are not of any help to our participants when they can not understand the meaning and purpose of our input or questions.

Therefore, besides sharing the speeches that I will give at our Club meeting, I will share tips and tricks for public speaking, other fantastic speaker’s journey, and how to use public speaking in our facilitation work.

Are you fond of public speaking or do you prefer to be in the audience? What do you always wanted to know about public speaking? Leave me your answers in the comments below.

Love and appreciation!

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Toastmaster Tuesday will be a bi-weekly instalment. So you can expect the next TT on Tuesday the 13th of November.

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Why you should do it non-formal – An introduction to Non-Formal Education

Every time someone introduces me as a trainer and uses the word ‘informal education’, I cringe. Every time a participant complains in the daily debrief about the lack of presentations and immediate solution, I sigh. Every time a client wishes a formal set up for the training and shows me an agenda full of speakers, I want to hold up a big sign “Non-formal education trainer here!”

There is a lot of confusion about the term non-formal education. Therefore, the assumptions and the expectations of the clients and participants don’t often match with the training I facilitate and the methods and approaches I practice. That impact very negatively their capacity to indeed witness and experience the potential and real benefits provided by those learning tools.

img_1008Did you see how I used to facilitate learning at the end of the last paragraph instead of to teach? That was a conscious choice as the words “to teach” and “teacher” are connected to a different form of education – formal education. The concept of formal education is universally known as we all were students taught by teachers in subjects we could not choose at schools we were obliged to go. This one sentence summarises pretty directly what is widely understood as formal education, but let me walk you through the different aspects bit by bit.

First, formal education always happened in a clearly described setting. There is the teacher who holds the knowledge authority and the student who receives that knowledge. The knowledge is defined through curricular and other regulating aspects.

Second, formal education learning is always held to a clear pre-defined standard and assessed based on the individual capacity of meeting the criteria of that standard. The focus of this educative method is, therefore, the outcome more than the learning itself. It globally does not factor in the individual circumstances of students.

Third, formal education to a certain degree is mandatory. In almost all countries of the world, the school attendance up to at least primary school is compulsory for all children. This factor does not mean that voluntary higher education, such as a university, does not fall into the concept of formal education. Once you are registered to enter higher education presence and participation are as mandatory as in primary school.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned another form of education – informal education. This form of learning can be described as learning by doing or learning through experience. It is often presented as the opposite to formal education as it is unplanned and not assessed nor monitored. It does not have a defined space but happens in everyday life. One typical example is, that when you as a child put your hand on the hot oven, you learned that it hurts to touch the hot oven. In some theories and definition also socialisation itself is considered informal learning as your family did not have a set curriculum in mind but shaped your behaviour through their own actions and norms.

So these two are pretty clear, right? So what is non-formal education? Let’s look at some official definitions.

“Education that is institutionalized, intentional and planned by an education provider. The defining characteristic of non-formal education is that it is an addition, alternative and/or a complement to formal education […]. It caters for people of all ages, but does not necessarily apply a continuous pathway-structure; […]. Non-formal education mostly leads to qualifications that are not recognized as formal qualifications […] or to no qualifications at all. […]” (UNESCO)

The UNESCO defines non-formal education through the lens of formal education. It sees it more as an offer alongside formal learning opportunities and as a tool for life-long learning. It considers it as a less efficient form of education, notably in term of outcomes.

“Non formal learning is purposive but voluntary learning that takes place in a diverse range of environments […] for which teaching/training and learning is not necessarily their sole or main activity. These environments […] may be temporarly, and the activities […] that take place may be staffed by professional learning facilitators […] or by volunteers […]. The activities and courses are planned, […] rarely […] assess learning outcomes […] in conventionally visible ways.” (Youthpass)

For the Youthpass the primary focus is on the voluntariness of the participation in non-formal education and informal of the setting. Nevertheless, it is structured and planned.

“Non-formal learning takes place outside formal learning environments but within some kind of organisational framework. It arises from the learner’s conscious decision to master a particular activity, skill or area of knowledge and is thus the result of intentional effort. But it need not follow a formal syllabus or be governed by external accreditation and assessment. Non-formal learning typically takes place in community settings […].” (Council of Europe)

In the Council of Europe’s definition, the focus is apparently on the learner itself. She consciously decides to participate in the learning process and put effort into the creation of a result.

All three definitions clearly place non-formal education outside the formal educational system. Nevertheless all state a planned and structured approach through some sort of facilitator. In two of them, the voluntary participation is a defining aspect. Further, the assessment of the learning outcomes is absent in all of them.

img_0657-1For me non-formal education is the space in which participants acknowledge their own expertise, learn how to connect it with their fellow learners and create solutions together. The most valuable takeaway in this process is the moment of self-awareness and growth. The methods I select are aiming to facilitate this process. It is not about me as a facilitator or my opinions. Therefore I believe a non-formal educator/trainer/facilitator does not need to be an expert on the topic of the session. She just needs to know how to create an experience that kickstarts the process and a frame to guide it in its natural flow. Therefore, it is necessary to continually adjust the planned learning journey to the needs and aims of the learner.

So now we know what I understand as non-formal education. Thank you for sticking with me through this long post. But before I let you go, I briefly want to speak about when and where we can use non-formal education.

The approach of non-formal education is universal and can (and should) be used wherever learning happens. Most of the tools of the formal education only benefit a small part of the learners, and the focus on standardised outcomes does not give the individual development of one learner the validation it deserves. Therefore, I advocate for the introduction of non-formal education within our school system, university and even the corporate work world. How far could innovation go, if we were able to harvest the expertise of each and every one in the room!

I hope this journey into a more theoretical background did not just give you some insights into your own learning but also inspires you to discover the world of non-formal education further. As always leave your comments and questions below and I would really appreciate if you like and share this post!

Love and appreciation,

Anuschka

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!