At times I facilitate professional learning activities for 3 people, and at others for 300 people. The variety keeps me loving my work, but it also keeps me on my toes. An effective facilitator must be prepared for working differently with large and small audiences.
The larger the audience, the earlier an effective facilitator arrives. Even if the technology and set up is the same, more time is needed for “maxi-mingling.” Maxi-mingling refers to mingling that a presenter does just prior to the session to meet as many people as possible and ask intentional questions. Gathering information and developing rapport is a sure way to increase your effectiveness. It will only take a few minutes with a small group, but can take significant time with a larger group. For audiences over 100, try to mingle for at least 20 minutes. With limited time, be sure to work the back of the room first.
With a large group, be ready with your running shoes! Perhaps not actual running shoes, but be prepared to put in lots of miles as you move around the room. Only brief keynotes should keep you standing still at the front. When you ask participants to turn and talk with each other about an idea, be sure to wander the room, listening in to check for comprehension. If you have a wireless microphone, consider presenting from different areas of the room throughout the day. This adds some novelty and honors those seated farthest away from the front.
When your group is very small, it is a snap for participants to ask you questions. It’s just not as easy once your group size is over 40. To address this challenge, encourage participants to come up to you during the breaks with their questions. Assure them that this is what you are there for – and then make yourself available. Also, as you wander the room while participants are doing application activities, stop at tables and ask if anyone has a question. Try using a question parking lot – a poster or wall space where participants can leave questions on sticky notes. Check these throughout the day and address them whenever possible. Finally, make your email address available and encourage participants to contact you later. They will be grateful!
For additional tips, you can order "Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Learning" here , on Amazon or on the iBook Store.
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Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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