By now the workshop is 10 or 15 minutes old, the facilitator has introduced the agenda and given an overview of the day – and you haven’t heard a word!
It happens often doesn’t it?
Here’s a simple exercise that the facilitator can use to help workshop participants attend right from the start. It allows participants to be fully present, with their attention focused on the workshop and not on other matters.
- Before participants arrive, the facilitator places a bag an some notepaper on each participants chair.
- Once everyone has arrived ask participants to write their name on the bag and then on the notepaper to answer this question: “What have I left behind or given up in order to attend this workshop today?” The facilitator may wish to give some examples and explain that the answers could include: activities (e.g. finishing the monthly report, or going to the gym), thoughts and plans (e.g. thinking about tonight's dinner and what to buy for it, or deciding where to go for the summer holidays), routine commitments (e.g. not meeting your partner for lunch). Note that it may also be helpful to suggest that participants turn off their mobile phones and place them in the bag as well. (There may be some exemptions to this: e.g. doctors or parents with young children)
- Give people about 5 minutes to write as much as they can think of. Encourage them to write anything and everything that comes to mind.
- Ask participants to pair up with one other person and then for each to tell the other what has been written on their list. Allow about 5 minutes.
- Once each person has had the chance to tell the other what is on their list, then ask them to tell the other person that “I am going to place this bag (and everything in it) outside the door and leave it there for the duration of the workshop. I will then focus my attention on the workshop.”
- Ask participants to physically place their bag outside the door (or just inside it if security is an issue)
- Once everyone has placed their bag outside the door, reassemble the group and ask if anyone still has anything left that would hinder them attending to the workshop.
- Finally, ask participants to turn to their neighbour and tell them: “I am now present.”