One of the pleasures of being in a job where you are constantly in front of groups, conducting workshops, is the instantaneous positive feedback one gets at the end of a workshop that goes well. This is especially true for Team building workshops that we conduct. A colleague of mine had written a very nice article about the same, where he talked about a HUGS-BAROMETER – the number of hugs one gets as a Facilitator at the end of the workshop. I can think of few other jobs that give such instant feedback and gratification!
But success sometimes brings along its own unwieldy baggage. In the case of budding Facilitators, it is the baggage of anticipation to get hugs & the rah-rah of a high energy close to a workshop – in every workshop. Why is this a wrong expectation?
One way to understand this is by appreciating the differing objectives that a customer has for different workshops. If you imagine a continuum with intensity on one end and energy on another – every workshop intervention falls somewhere in the space in-between. So, when we conduct a typical team building workshop, where the customer defines the objective as being – having fun, a good time & team bonding – the expectation is pegged more towards energy. On the other hand, when a customer defines the objective as arriving at a shared vision for the team or say getting a team of strong individuals with strong, differing opinions – aligned together as a team– the expectation is pegged more towards intensity. A Facilitator needs to be keenly aware of this difference.
A workshop which is pegged more towards energy, calls for a fun, high energy close…. What we also term as a rah-rah ending! The sort of closing which takes individuals to a “high” – and hence at the end of that experience, they naturally feel so effusive that they come along and hug you as a sincere form of expressing their thanks.
A workshop which is pegged more towards intensity though, calls for meaningful engagement with all participants. An experience where everyone gets an opportunity to think through and express their point of view, where every participant feels heard – and a tangible output gets generated that has the buy-in of all participants. Such workshops are more about managing heated, passionate conversations – and guiding them towards a close that is “meaningful” for all concerned. Trying to close such workshops through a contrived, high energy close – jars with the overall mood and tenor of the workshop. And hence, a Facilitator should not even try for the classic, “high energy rah-rah close”!
Just one caveat here. Atleast in the Focus Way of conducting workshops, “Intensity” does not mean only serious – and “Energy” does not only mean fun. Afterall, even in a fun workshop – it is important for meaningful conversations to happen. Similarly, even intense workshops need to be conducted in an engaging manner with just the right sprinkling of humour.
How then does one bring an “intense” workshop to a close? A few ideas that have worked for us are:
- Summarize, re-affirm next steps, thank and close
- After the formal closure by you, invite the leader to wrap up
- Speak a minute by all participants around the room – thank and close
- As a wrap-up, ask participants in small clusters to discuss & list out 3 take-aways from the discussion. Make sure you collate all these on the whiteboard upfront. Summarise and close.
What is also important in workshops that are “intense” is that – all key points discussed are captured and shared back in a crisp manner – as an output deck that all participants can refer back to. This is a critical step, since this is what gives “meaning” for participants, to all the time spent in a workshop.
In conclusion – not all workshops need to end in a high energy rah-rah manner. The job of the Facilitator is to be keenly aware where a workshop is pegged at on a scale of Intensity versus Energy & close accordingly. In workshops that are pegged more towards intensity, the post workshop output is critical in helping participants find “meaning” in the workshop.
What has been your experience as a Facilitator or as a participant when it comes to the closing? Do share your thoughts!