If you need some help with participant introductions in workshops, here are some practical tips to get you started.
We’ll also cover some ideas on ground rules to maintain full participation in your workshop.
Before you start participant introductions in workshops
The first session of a workshop is all about setting the scene and making people feel reasonably comfortable with what lies ahead.
You’ll find that there are still plenty of people who feel uneasy about being ‘facilitated’. Be open and clear about the process, what you intend to do and why. That will help people to focus on the content of the workshop rather than the facilitation processes being used.
In a nutshell – be upfront and keep it simple – not many people will complain about that!
An important part of starting any workshop is making sure that participants understand the aims of the workshop. In other words, what they are there to do.
The basics are:
- Introduce yourself and your role, including who you represent
- Thank participants for investing their time, effort and passion in the workshop
- Provide a brief outline of why the workshop is being held (background)
- Provide a brief outline of what the workshop is planning to achieve (outcomes)
- Indicate how long the process / workshop will take
- Talk briefly about how you intend to run proceedings (e.g. presentations, individual and group exercises etc.)
- Emphasise that your role is to remain independent and enable people to contribute
Things to check:
- Everyone is clear on why the workshop is being held
- Everyone is clear on what can be achieved
- That everyone is ready to move on.
Now that everyone is clear on the task, you should be ready to role with the participant introductions.
(a) Short workshops.
- Their role and who they represent (if there are different organisations represented in the workshop)
- Their location (if mostly community or locally-based people).
(b) Longer workshops or programs.
This approach can be used to connect a participants who are unfamiliar with each other or will need to work together over an extended period. In this case ask them to share:
- A description of themselves using their initials;
- Highlight of their last two weeks
- Something they’re really good at
Deciding ground rules
If you envisage some challenges in managing a group, if it is a new group or you have not worked with them before, it may be worthwhile setting some ground rules or establishing a group contract. Once people have agreed to the ground rules, it means that they can ‘self-govern’. The group will often pull offenders into line. If they don’t, a gentle reminder about the agreed ground rules can be a great tool for keeping the workshop process moving.
- Check the group’s background beforehand if you have not worked with them. Some may find the need for ground rules unnecessary or even an insult;
- If there are some ‘hot topics’ that are likely to get people excited, ground rules will be your friend!
Options to try
You can ask the group for suggestions. Ask how they would like to be treated throughout the workshop or how they would like to see the event ‘unfold’.
One handy tool to use is called ‘showing the ropes’ (let the ropes form the ground rules for the day). By sticking to the ropes, participants can agree to:
Respect – respect other’s opinions.
Open minded – be open to other people’s ideas.
Participate – get involved in the process.
Experience – be sure to share what they have.
Above the Line
Another suggestion is the ‘above the line’ concept. When people are ‘above the line’, they take responsibility for their actions and behaviours. They’re looking forward to see what’s possible and how they can influence this. Encouraging people to stay above the line will help reinforce some objectivity in people’s approach.
People who sit below the line tend to blame others for their situation or justify their actions (or lack of them). Being below the line means you’re looking backward and dwelling on things that you cannot influence. You’re not moving – you stay where you are – below the line.
Now you’re off and running! If you’re looking for more resources regarding participant introductions in workshops or want a hand with your next workshop, be sure to get in touch.