Butterflies are OK! In the past month, I have facilitated highly rewarding and highly challenging sessions. I have been privileged to work with caring and passionate individuals – from a corporate staff team of 20 people split between “in the field” and “head office” to 60 participants in a Knowledge Exchange Forum about academic research to a Leadership Team to work on a strategic plan.
This amount and complexity of facilitation activities is what I love! However, at times during the past month, I was anxious at the variety and intensity of the facilitation. I felt the familiar “butterflies in the stomach” as I wondered if I could design and deliver the methods that would help these groups hold meaningful discussions and make productive and beneficial decisions. Oh, and have fun!
Then I focussed on what was important – the participants. I reminded myself that the session is about them; not me. At the start of each day of the facilitation sessions, I visualized the participants – where they were coming from; what they were leaving to attend the session, what they wanted to achieve, and how they might feel about their upcoming experience. During the sessions, I observed the participants – what their body language said and how they interacted. I listened to the participants – what were they talking about? How engaged did they seem? And most importantly, I asked the participants about the design, the flow, the approach, the timing, and the intent of my facilitation activities. I listened to them, they listened to each other and we collaboratively designed the discussions.
During this facilitation work, I reminded myself of what I need to do to be an effective facilitator. I need to remove the “I” from my mind and think of “We”, that is, the participants and me as a team. I know that focussing on the participants will always help me to calm the butterflies.
My blog conversation question: How do you focus on the participants?