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Guiding Better Experiences As A Group

Meaningful experiences don’t just happen, they blossom when guidance has a place at every step. 

When you get it right, it fosters active participation, a real sense of enjoyment and deeper connections.

Whether you are a facilitator or looking to get others involved in an activity, to participate, this is for you. It’s what I have done that hasn’t worked, to now getting to a place where intention and specificity is the key to success.

Let me share how things have progressed with learning ‘on the job.’

This is for you if you want a group of people to work on an activity together. It could be online or offline, but when you put the expectation on your audience to deliver something and where you switch from the host to the facilitator.

Giving You Context (What Didn’t Work)

It is never easy when you ask a room of over 150 people to work together. It means you have a mix of people with varying expectations. 

This is what we do at YATM Creator Day. It’s our final session where everyone comes together in their own groups to work on a piece of content they haven’t got around to doing or may have been slightly nervous to commit. It’s simply called, ‘working together.’ From a LinkedIn post to a blog to a video, the theme is being pushed and encouraged by others around you.

The piece of work is by one person but supported by others, not one piece of work created by a group of people.

This has been a group activity I have attempted before, but has not worked as well as anticipated. 

Here is where I went wrong.

I wasn’t wholly clear from the outset

when you are including a task for people to participate, it needs to be apparent in every piece of communication. For instance, just because a website sets out the intention, it doesn’t mean people will read it. 

People were not teed up

The ‘working together’ section was new for everyone when we introduced it in 2022, but I recognised that not everyone joined in. That’s ok, but people needed to feel safe and that what they were going to participate in felt structured and safe, not as though it was a piece of work they were going to be judged on. 

It didn’t feel guided

When you start something new, you have to be specific at every step. One of my mistakes was that it was all in my head and when that is directed from me to a room of people, you cannot expect everyone to pick up and follow the flow, no matter how much you believe in it.

Fun needed to be apparent, not a hidden way to do ‘work’

People are busy, and they need to be motivated to do something they were not necessarily expecting. There has to be a real sense of enjoyment that goes hand in hand with the activity. When I began I was too focused on the ‘doing’ not the recognition that there are times when we can let our hair down and have fun together. 

The Tweaks That Worked (So, You Can Do It Too)

I now know what it takes to get people to join. 

The ‘working together’ at YATM Creator Day ’23 and then at Creator Economy Expo (CEX) was an exercise to show how important it is to be around each other, rather than having casual conversations during breaks at events. Being committed together is far stronger than one person’s decision to attend. 

It takes things to a whole new level, but for it to work, you still have to have a structure.

Transparency From The Beginning 

I found that sharing the outcomes, helps people align their mindset so that can actively contribute. For instance, the rational outcome was for people to create their own piece of work that is then published and for others to rally behind them. From an emotive transparency level, it was everything about feeling supported by others, being motivated, creating accountability, forming new connections and creating that space where honesty and encouragement are supported. Forming this around a fun activity, makes it easier.

This element of fun has to be clear from the outset. It doesn’t help if people think they are about to walk into a ‘round table’ or a ‘hot seat’ type environment where they think they may be judged by others.

Promoting Familiarity Before The Task 

In the final week leading up to the event, I sent regular emails to attendees on what we would be doing. This way everything was clear. One thing I will do for YATM Creator Day 2024 (25th April) is to make the ‘working together’ section as part of the whole occasion, so people can perhaps prepare and think as though it’s part of the event delivery.

It is important to keep people in the loop before the event has begun. For instance, for our session at CEX I produced a short video for participants to know what they were going to commit to. Most people who attended probably didn’t even know who I was.

Find Your Leaders 

When everything is on you, it’s all eyes on you and you are judged for it.

I recognised from our 2022 event that if anyone had any questions, everything was directed at me. What I did in 2023 was to brief 15 ‘leaders’ on the activity, the aims and the intention. If you can find ways to brief others beforehand, guidance and instructions can significantly improve the outcomes. It means that the expectations are shared and apparent from the outset. If the exercise was to promote learning and joining in, then others had to be in on the project.

Enthusiasm To Join In 

The only way for people to partner up with others is to recognise a way that is easy to participate and has that element of controlled chaos and fun. The noisier, the better. Here is a short clip from what we did at CEX, where people had to find others from the same suit of playing cards. 

For Creator Day, 15 group leaders had to be located in the theatre and everyone was given a card that had an AI version of the ‘leader.’ It had a ‘Where’s Wally’ element to it, but bringing enjoyment into the process made it easier for people to join in.

Most importantly, the random nature of partnering up with others, meant that people connected with others they may not have previously met. It helped to broaden each other networks, bring people together and even hear fresh insights and ideas. 

Participation Guidance 

Engaging with each other is the key to success. It helps progress the discussion and encourages the group to join in.

You need to model what you want people to do. For the ‘working together’ task, everyone was asked to consider three questions and then share them within their groups. Specific questions help to provide structure and encourage interaction with each other. 

Everything has to be around empowering the flow of conversation. We made sure it didn’t stop when the event finished. Teams were encouraged to keep the discussion and promise after the event (the promise was the piece of work they were going to publish). Whether WhatsApp or a LinkedIn messaging thread, the groups were given the motivation to keep in touch with each other and share their work. 

Find A Way To Conclude 

As well as a start, there has to be a way to galvanise and conclude the journey together. 

Our way to finish was to invite the groups to share what they produced, on Zoom. It also meant that the chat function enabled people to share their work and for others to see what they did. It also provided the opportunity to connect with others who were not in the same group but at the same event.

Bringing others together with the same mindset still means joint aspirations and a shared sense of being together. It is important to recognise how you can close, it’s fitting and everyone deserves a way to understand what they have achieved together. It also shows that you care, beyond the event or the task.

Let’s Round-Up 

Encouraging people to collaborate and be involved, works when you have a clear structure and enjoyment as a central theme.

Uplifting experiences require guidance, clarity and above else active participation for everyone to feel a sense of achievement. 

Whether you’re a facilitator or part of the group involvement, everyone needs to be motivated, where energy and fellowship are key drivers. This is where success lies.

For YATM, we’ll keep going with the ‘working together’ giant experiment. It’s something new, but I’d rather learn each year and make it a positive experience where there is transparency, inclusion and guidance and where everyone can look back and recognise they were a part of something special.

Facilitating group experiences only helps to bring a community closer together. You just have to be clear with your instructions from the very beginning.

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