Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0280, November 28, 2006 ....
 

Dear friends,

Attuning to your audience is particularly important if you want to effectively communicate with them. Knowing that people have different needs and styles of communication will help you better prepare to engage them in your groups. This is particularly important in the case of virtual meetings since your medium is limited primarily to mainly the aural channel. In this week's article, "Attune to Your Audience," I provide some tips to help you attune to the needs and styles of your participants.

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Have a great week!

Steve Davis
Publisher


 
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The Point

Attune to Your Audience
Tips for connecting with your participants
Group Facilitation Skill


Attuning to your audience is particularly important if you want to effectively communicate with them. Knowing that people have different needs and styles of communication will help you better prepare to engage them in your groups. This is particularly important in the case of virtual meetings since your medium is limited primarily to mainly the aural channel. Here are some things I do to help me attune to the needs and styles of my audiences.


Application


Use Learning Style and Personality Assessments.
I like to use the VAK learning styles assessment and the Jung Typology Test to help me assess the learning styles and personalities of my participants. This helps me adjust to each unique audience. These tests are free and can be taken online here:

- VAK Learning Style:
https://olt.qut.edu.au/it/ITB116/gen/static/VAK/Tests.htm

-
Jung Typology Test:
http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes1.htm


Vary Your Presentation. Present information and experience in different forms to not only meet the learning needs of the different styles in the your group, but to reinforce and enhance the experience for everyone. Since speaking is our most natural mode of delivery, it's easier to connect with auditory styles. Using visual aids and graphics to illustrate complex points is helpful for visual learners. Asking people to draw or write engages both the visual and kinesthetic styles at the same time.

Attitude. I've heard it said that "Your attitude is your life." This of course means that our attitudes about life define the quality of our lives. What attitude do you have about your group, your subject, and your participants? Curiosity? Love for learning? Love for your participants? Being of service? A passion for your subject? As long as your attitude is positive, it will be attractive. If you find yourself slipping into an attitude of obligation, frustration, impatience, or some other negative stance, stop and look at the thoughts and feelings driving this attitude. If you don't like your present attitude, change what you're doing or find a new interpretation of it to shift your attitude.

Your Voice is Your Instrument. Your primary tool as a facilitator is your voice. Sufficient volume, resonance, energy, and enunciation are critical. More often than not, participants won't say anything when they're having trouble hearing you. So the first simple thing you can do to improve the use of your voice as a leader is to simply check in with your participants periodically to make sure they're hearing and understanding you. To improve the quality of your voice, the best way I know to do this outside of hiring a voice coach, is to record your voice then playback and listen to it. This may be a bit uncomfortable at first but do it anyway. We have a way of correcting our flaws and weaknesses nearly automatically when we listen to ourselves on tape. Also take note of what you'd like to change or do more of and keep practicing, recording, and listening. You'll hear yourself improve in a remarkable way.

Li
stening. Your listening skills are critical. If you practice facilitating groups where dialogue is encouraged, you will naturally refine your ability to listen to a high degree. Listening between the lines, listening to the silences, and trusting and testing your intuition are key skills to employ.

Flexibility. Flexibility is a core facilitation skill in both live and teleclass formats. A flexible leader can change course and go off the agenda in a moment's notice to honor and follow the dynamic energy and interests in the group, or to linger on a provocative point that shows up. A flexible leader is able to dance with the unexpected technical difficulties or difficult participants that show up on you calls. Being flexible requires you to surrender attachment to your best laid plans and be willing to embrace the unexpected events that invariably show up. Going with the flow of what shows up that is in service to your class objectives will make the most of the group experience for everyone.

Compassion.

Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.
--Thomas Merton


Facilitators are leaders who must often take strong control of their groups or share things that may be sensitive areas. Therefore, it's important for us to lead from a compassionate heart. Leading with compassion means that you value everyone in your group and treat them with the respect knowing that anything that feels uncomfortable or annoying about their behavior is a reflection of something about yourself you've not yet fully embraced. Be strong in guiding your group toward its purpose with kindness and diplomacy.

Control. Effective facilitation requires a balance of diplomacy and autocracy. You need to be polite, respectful, protective, and diplomatic with all participants and, fiercely guard the process and maintain the integrity of the container you've helped them create. The container is largely defined by ground rules or operating agreements. Enforcement of these rules inspires a discipline of integrity and safety among its members. Behaving in accordance with many common ground rules isn't familiar behavior for many people so they are often broken early in the process. Therefore, intervening early is part of the process of educating the group on what they really are.

Presence. When we speak of being present, we're talking about our attention. Something most of don't feel we have a lot of control over at times. To be in the present is one of the more difficult skills for many of us in this culture. If you are evaluating, judging, appreciating or regretting anything that has just happened, you're not present; you're thinking about or processing the past. Most of our waking hours are spent processing the past rather or fantasizing about the future rather than being in this present moment.

What's the value in being present? For one thing, once you're there, the present is very easy to deal with. You're only handling "what is," not what might be or what used to be. And, since you can handle whatever "is" fairly easily, very little energy is required. In the present you more clearly see creative options for your next action.

To practice being present, try slowing down and connecting with yourself. This will allow you to connect with your group and meet them where they are so that you can deliver what they want. Your body is your anchor into the present. Use your breath, your hand, simply feel your body or something within the realm of your senses to help you be here now in the present moment.

Sense of Humor. Leading a group is not a life or death proposition. Bringing a lightness and sense of humor to our groups will not only make them more entertaining for our participants but will make leading them a much more enjoyable experience. When people are feeling buoyant, they're more creative, resilient, and cooperative. Focusing seriously on things than go wrong make mountains of molehills. Bringing a sense of lightness to our work allows us to sail over the little speed bumps that will inevitably show up.

Energy Sensitivity. Bringing flexibility to our group leadership, we will often be faced with a multitude of possible directions and foci. We may be confused by all the options. We have our planned material (often far too much!). We have great ideas coming from our fully engaged participants. In light of all this input, we may be faced with the question, "There are too many choices! Where do I go from here?" The best answer to this question is to simply "follow the energy." By this I mean follow the interest and enthusiasm of the group. Their energy indicates their passion and their passion will fuel their learning more than any amount of intellectual material. As long as this energy leads in the direction of the group objectives, you're on the right track.


Action
 
Which behavior above do you do best? Which could use some practice? What will you do this week to strengthen yourself as a group leader? Please click reply and share your comments. I'd love to hear from you.
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