Recently I was running a risk workshop on at an office of my company. Another workshop was running there that same day; some sales training for the bankers. The sales trainer was effervescent, colourfully dressed and obviously pumped for her day. I asked her what she was running.
She replied “Our training is two hours of bingo! What are you running?”
“Um, 6 hours on internal business credit risk analysis.”
“Sounds really fun…”
“It has its moments, I suppose.”
“I’m sure it does!”
And with that she was off into the big fancy conference room to play bingo. I pondered for a second how engaging it sounded, had a pang of jealousy and wondered what I was about to put my participants through as I mustered them into the adjoining room.

It was a booking clash that led to me volunteering to use the smaller room. It was half to be nice, but half an acknowledgement of a pecking order of the content streams in my own mind. So as a facilitator how do you change perceptions, starting with your own, of content that is important, but maybe not exciting, in its raw form? Here’s my list:

1) Love the content. I originally came into facilitation as a subject matter expert, so I had a love of what I knew. Lately though I had to find ways to love stuff I haven’t been an expert in; meeting passionate people, research, immersion. Either way, find the love and let it ebb out of you.
2) If you can’t love it, say you do. Repeatedly. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to include in your opening frame “I love this workshop because…” and then keep saying it. It’s strong, emotive language that sets the tone for yourself as much as the participants. And sometimes it takes discipline.
3) Take a risk and try some ideas. A playful approach will give your participants permission to have fun with you. It will give you new angles into the content.
4) Embrace the challenge. Especially from the perspective of one’s own professional development, who ever wants it to always be easy? Boredom is a facilitator’s greatest enemy.
5) Utilise the utility. Important content will do the ‘heavy lifting’ itself, when combined with facilitation that links it back to where it will be most useful for the participants in life outside the workshop.

Back to the day of bingo. From the adjoining conference room, lots of laughs and cheers were predictably seeping through the walls. My participants were two hours in and they were concentrating really well. One of them suddenly piped up with “Hey this workshop is pretty good, it’s worth a woo-hoo too.” So the participants all gave a big “WOOHOO”! I couldn’t help but smile. The honour of credit risk as a fun content stream was restored; most importantly in my own mind. Having said that, playing bingo is a cool idea, I might just use that one day…

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