So, I want to facilitate a workshop with a group of people. But I’ve never met them before. Hence I’m forced make assumptions about them.

Here’s what I reckon is a safe set of assumptions – good for almost any situation.

I can safely trust that my participants, whoever they are:

1) Will back me.

2) Arrive anxious and need thawing.

3) Are hoping someone’s in charge.

4) Appreciate structure.

5) Appreciate ground rules, with consent.

6) Collectively know more than the experts (so surface their knowledge first).

7) Are dying to be genuinely heard (beginning in pairs).

8) Will come back smiling from a paired session.

9) Have excellent stamina for doing, but little for listening.

10) Will throw themselves into answering good questions.

11) Always welcome moving their bodies, arms, anything.

12) To freely imagine, must be smiling. 

13) Grow taller with praise.

14) Have a huge appetite for stories, but less for facts.

15) Will forget instructions unless they’re written down.

16) Will misinterpret abstract words or directions unless I give working examples.

17) Will tend to focus on problems unless I insist that ‘we’re only interested in positive solutions’ and give them examples.

18) Will be distracted by their devices if they can see them.

19) Will mysteriously grey their imaginations and hopefulness as soon as they sit down. I can fix that by showing them exciting inspirations and evidence of how others are ‘going beyond’.

By assuming these statements are true I can happily design and deliver quite complex and challenging workshops. Plus…there’s less to worry about!


While I’m at it, here are a couple more nuggets of hard-earned wisdom:

I’ve noticed that Elected representatives will frequently overtalk – so establish strict, tight time limits for any session they’re in.

Expert speakers will so often ignore time limits and present their standard PowerPoint spiel with scant regard for the audience’s actual interests or attention span – so give them a firm briefing on what the audience want to hear, plus strict time limits and slide limits. For example: “You have 10 minutes and 5 slides, the rest is question time” – that works well.

Facilitate with Confidence

Here’s the details of the next Facilitate with Confidence training: