The first session of a workshop is all about setting the scene and making people feel reasonably comfortable with what lies ahead. You'll find that there are still plenty of people who feel uneasy about being 'facilitated'.
Be open and clear about the process, what you intend to do and why. That will help people to focus on the content of the workshop rather than the facilitation processes being used. In a nutshell – be upfront and keep it simple – not many people will complain about that!
An important part of starting any workshop is making sure that participants understand the aims of the workshop. In other words, what they are there to do.
The basics are:
- Introduce yourself and your role, including who you represent;
- Thank participants for investing their time, effort and passion in the workshop;
- Provide a brief outline of why the workshop is being held (background);
- Provide a brief outline of what the workshop is planning to achieve (outcomes);
- Indicate how long the process / workshop will take;
- Talk briefly about how you intend to run proceedings (ie: brainstorming, goal setting, prioritisation, etc);
Emphasize that your role is to lead the process and ask the questions and let participants know you'll be drawing on the skills and experience of those in the room to develop agreed solutions.
Things to remember:
- Breathe – you've got to breathe. Breathe in – breathe out. It's easy;
- Every day above ground is a good day;
- Fear and nervousness are excitement waiting to get out;
- Get through this part and your confidence will continue to grow.
Things to check:
- Everyone is clear on why the workshop is being held;
- Everyone is clear on what can be achieved.
Questions to ask:
- Are there any questions?
- Is everyone clear on what we're trying to achieve ?;
- Are we ready to move on?
Do not …
Ask if people are happy (not everyone likes workshops)
People like to know who they're working with. A workshop situation is no different. Introductions can help people to find out what skills and experience lie within the group, as well as put a name to a face.
Some people like to keep their private lives separate from work. As facilitators, we have to respect that. Some people are plain shy and we have to be aware of this. Doing some homework beforehand will help you to decide the most appropriate way to conduct introductions. There are a range of ways for people to introduce themselves, or each other.
The short approach
If you only have a half day or less for the workshop, using shorter introductions is the way to go. People may be watching the clock and will be keen to get into the main body of the workshop.
It's important to provide some context – ie: “We'll be working together over the next few hours / day.
Start with whoever is closest to you (make sure you know their name first) and get them to introduce themselves, then move in order around the room.
Things to remember:
- Give everyone the chance to introduce themselves;
- Keep track of who has spoken and who has not;
- Acknowledge and thank people for their introductions as you go (does not have to be everyone – can be good to build the confidence of shy people – can also help you in remembering names).
Types of introductions
- Description of yourself using your initials;
- Highlight of your last two weeks;
- Something you're really good at