The time is 10:00 and the official break has begun. One hundred participants get up to stretch, while a handful approach the front of the room to speak with me individually, asking questions or sharing stories. I have encouraged these one-on-one interactions so that everyone can receive what they need. Lunchtime rolls around and the same pattern emerges - interacting with a variety of people for a significant portion of the break. By the time the afternoon break happens, I rush to the restroom, enter a stall and think about staying inside for the entire time. I am relieved to know that this is not an uncommon feeling.
Susan Cain recounts a similar story in her book, "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking." Professor Brian Little, an expert in psychology and self-proclaimed introvert, admits to seeking shelter in the restroom whenever he has a break during his presentations. He even goes so far as to pull his feet up so that no one will know he is there! Introverts find these moments essential for regaining the energy needed to return to the public, social interactions that have to occur when facilitating adult learning.
While I don't consider myself an introvert, I have learned that there are times when it is ok to hide, and others when it is not. Here are the three most essential times during a training session when facilitators should make themselves available to the audience.
1. For 30 minutes before the session starts. This is the time for "maxi-mingling" - meeting as many participants as possible and gathering information about their needs and experiences.
2. During the first break. Once participants have a sense of your content and personality, they may want to approach you with questions. I encourage participants to do this because it reduces the number of individual or off-topic questions that can derail the whole group agenda.
3. At the end of the session. After a positive presentation, learners will want to thank you for your effort (and might inquire about how they can hire you for additional work!) Being available to shake hands, take selfies and thank people for their contributions will send participants off on a high note.
Once you have covered these times, you can feel guilt free about hiding out in the bathroom stall for a few quiet moments.
Find other tips for maximizing your presentation and facilitation skills in my book Caffeinated Learning, available in paper and on iBooks.
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Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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