Fluidity in workshop facilitation

When I moved to France in the seventies as a teenager, with my family, I was immersed in intensive French lessons at the Lycée International. Our curriculum – barring a few hours a week in the British Section – was French, in French, so it was pretty vital we international kids understand, speak and write the language. The newbies in school had 20 hours a week of ‘Français Spécial’ to fast track us to the highest standard worthy of the school.

Our French teacher was called Monsieur Dumont. He was fierce. Probably in his fifties or sixties even. He had stray floppy strands of grey hair on a balding head, thick black or brown rimmed glasses and a piece of chalk in his hand, at all times. He would throw said chalk at a student if he or she failed to answer a question correctly. We were all scared of him. The classes might as well have been dubbed ‘Français Boot Camp’. Despite his questionable methods he was relentless in his passion to teach us the best French a foreigner could ever hope to master. He imbued discipline in ways that kept us all on our toes. By the end of our year with him, we’d gone from barely remembering the gender for “Une table”, to writing flawless essays on Alfred de Musset’s play, Lorenzaccio. The Dumont method got results.

Therein lies the conundrum for me as a mentor, trainer, presenter and workshop facilitator (on a range of strategic, creative and well-being topics). Should the results of a learning or creative process be our focus? Get people from A to B, no matter what? Prepare them for what’s to come even if the journey is in itself arduous, gruelling? Or should we allow for enjoyment, and pleasure along the way?

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I advocate that the learning process and the journey to understand, master, create must be as enriching as the end result. To acquire new skills, to develop new ideas and to share these openly must surely take place in an encouraging, affable and safe environment. The incentive to dodge chalk bullets is hopefully a thing of the past.

From the innumerable workshops I have designed and facilitated, I can confidently say that the best results are always obtained by allowing a certain fluidity to their facilitation. Being prepared, structured, and focused on objectives and outcomes are important elements to the success of a workshop. So too is the ability to bend and sway a little like bullrushes in a breeze, making amends to the script, the flow, the pace in response to the personalities and dynamic of the group – to make it easy for everyone.

“We feel confident about the information that we pulled together, and thought how much easier it was than we expected”.

“We were impressed how Amanda kept the workshop running smoothly and on time. Something we aspire to in our own meetings”

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 © Amanda Yensa Manor 2016

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