This post was inspired by a photo.
Take a look. You want to be part of this workshop, right?
It was a lovely fall day in Colorado, at an event sponsored by the Community Resource Center. We had more than one hundred people in a church hall – good light, great acoustics, a very nice venue. And yet – a hundred people can only sit together for so long.
We organized several small group exercises throughout the day, but by afternoon it was abundantly clear: we really needed to be outside.
Get out of here – now!
I taught them simple role play exercise called Six Asks (download it here). People pair up and practice answering the question, “Why should I give?”
After modeling the exercise, I gave clear, explicit instructions: Find a partner, go outside, get to work. As people charged for the doors, we all felt a big bolt of energy. Yes, a few remained indoors – which was fine – but most of us wanted sunshine and fresh air.
We need sunshine and fresh air – it’s in our nature.
Don’t fear the great outdoors!
The chance to work outdoors can re-engage those slumped at their tables under the hum of fluorescent lights. The act of getting up and moving out of the building triggers the senses – different light, temperature, air quality, smells, sights, etc. When presented with different stimuli, we tend to wake up.
Maybe you’re afraid that once your participants leave the room, all bets are off. As trainers, it’s our job to design material that’s so interesting and compelling that people want to do it, regardless of the location.
Here are several tips to help your participants use their outside time effectively, and to help you manage the group.
- Give them very explicit instructions. (This is important for any exercise, but especially if they’re leaving the room.)
- Set a time limit: “You need to be back in your seats in 15 minutes.”
- Drift around and keep an eye on things. Don’t interfere, just observe. Keep a respectful distance.
- As the time winds down, walk up to each small group with a time check: “You’ve got three minutes, so please wrap up soon.”
- Most importantly, don’t be obsessive. If people use the time to have other conversations than the one you designed – well, those conversations are important, too. Trust the group.
Scout your outside options
As you’re choosing a training location – or arriving at a location chosen for you – pay attention to what’s available outdoors. Is there a patio? A grassy area? How about picnic tables? Steps and stone ledges make great seating areas. If needed, can you bring chairs outside?
Here’s a photo from Pittsburgh. The training room was adequate, but the grass was really inviting. What a beautiful spring day…so we spent a lot of time outdoors.
Depending on where you live, you might have outside training opportunities – even in November. Grab those opportunities. Your participants will be grateful, they’ll learn more, and they’ll appreciate the trust you show them.