Facilitation

by Steve Roche

Managing the space and environment

The atmosphere and comfort of the environment can play a crucial, if unobtrusive, part in the success of any meeting or workshop.

Temperature

People’s tolerance to temperature seems to vary greatly and what is warm to one person will feel cold to another. This also varies after meal times and activity breaks. As facilitator, you need to keep a check on the temperature and the easiest way to do this is notice how people are in the room. Are they putting jackets on or taking them off?

Tip

It’s a good idea to pass this task to someone else, because when you have all the usual facilitator plates spinning, temperature is often forgotten.

If you have an all-day event with a group, you might even ask at the start who feels the cold or the heat, and then ask them to be the ‘temperature monitor’. Their job is to bring any big swings in temperature to your attention so you can do something about it.

Noise

If you are facilitating at a conference venue, ask the venue manager what other events are scheduled for the same time so you can judge the level of noise they might generate. Be aware, also, of the possibility of disturbance from things such as building works and nearby road works. These may even rule out a venue altogether, if the event requires peace and reflective time.

You might also consider using music. This could be anything from a humorous theme tune for a workshop through to background music when people are arriving.

Light

A room that looks and feels a great place to be in the sunshine can feel dull and dreary if it is raining and some of the lights are not working. Check the lights before the event to ensure that they are working, especially if you need to dim one end of the room for a screen while keeping lights on the desktops so people can take notes.

Menu

If you extend the idea of environment out a bit further, you may also need to consider what is on the menu for lunch. At a large venue, you will probably eat on the premises. If you want your group to stay awake and alert after lunch, keep the menu light and low in carbohydrates. A big meal will send most of attendees off to sleep or some variation of an ‘I am awake, honest!’ pose.