Friday, November 07, 2008

I Am Come Home

I forget where I heard someone say this phrase...probably some Jane Austen movie adaptation.

I have returned from St. Louis, wielding a mighty sinus infection (my 3rd in the last 7 months, a lot for a person who 'never' gets sick), and being extremely tired.  

The training session went well, and my contributions were adequate, though I did not think I was stellar this time.  The participants were very engaged, and I certainly delivered all the key learning points through the facilitation, but I had to refer too much to my notes on the second day.  

Being sick really affected me.  I was my usual exuberant personality in front of the room, but I was so tired and feeling so poorly after hours that I had trouble focusing and therefore couldn't do my usual 3 or 4 quick run-thrus of my sessions the night before.

There's a point in my last session, which also happens to be the last session of the entire she-bang, when I got a little out of synch with the powerpoint because several of the slides look very similar.  It turned out ok, though, as I got it all sorted out while the participants were engaged in small group activities.

I really get a kick out of facilitating.  It's challenging, and I like challenges.  It's very different from presenting.  Doing a presentation usually involves a person speaking about a particular subject, usually with supporting powerpoint slides.  Perhaps there is a Q&A at the end.  It certainly requires skill, but it is a lot more straightforward in format and such.

Facilitation requires coordination of the entire group to reach particular points at particular times.  The ppt slides do contain vital information, but most of the learning happens through the guidance of the facilitator as they ask questions of the group.  The challenge is in knowing what point you need to hit, when you need to hit it, what information the group needs to have leading up to that point, if there is a particular workbook page or activity that builds upon it once you get there, and which questions to ask to make it the most effective.  

Because the group is offering answers, you have to manage that aspect while also being mindful of pace, available time left, the physicality of the situation, etc.  I plan out my main questions ahead of time...the ones that will help lead the group to the learning point, but there are always opportunities to dig deeper into the participants' answers, and that makes you have to be quite adaptable.  Fortunately, I am great at thinking on my feet.

I'm convinced that part of the reason I'm really really good at facilitating is because I was in marching band for all those years.  I have to be able to make my way around the physical space, moving and talking at the same time sometimes, and not step in front of the ppt projector beam, not trip on the extension cords, not turn my back on the participants, not run into the table where the laptop sits, etc., while still ensuring that when I'm ready to move on, that I am close enough to the laptop to hit the right key, that I am close enough to a flip chart with a marker in hand when I need to be, and that I can get to my notes quickly if I need to.  And then there's the part about actually listening to the answers of the questions I ask!

It's like performing really, but in an environment where the players and the spoken words change.  I love it...I absolutely love it.  Unfortunately, I don't do it often enough to get amazingly, spectacularly, unerringly fabulous at it.

So, I am come home, and I am done rambling for now.


Orbie/\;;/\ said...

welcome home and get well

CatBoy said...

I hope you start feeling better soon. I'm glad to hear it went well, even if you are lacking in fabulousness.

I never thought about performing as good prep for this sort of thing (aside from preparing you for speaking in front of people), but you made it very evident how helpful that experience must be.