Another dot in the blogosphere?

The energy of a room

Posted on: October 6, 2015

I have been on the circuit as an independent education consultant for over a year. I continue what I did before as a teacher, educator, and teacher educator in that I conduct seminars and facilitate workshops. Despite the difference in job title, the job scope remains the same: Trying to win hearts and minds, and creating the push and pull for change.

Anyone who stands up to this task will want to know how successful their sessions are. The success of such interventions can be measured several ways: Involvement of participants before, during, and/or immediately after the event; longer term follow up after the event; scores in a feedback form; the “feels”.

Most event organizers rely heavily or even primarily on a feedback form. They forget or ignore the backchannels, the one-on-one conversations, the informal follow-ups that lead to loose online communities, etc. A feedback form is limited in scope and Kirkpatrick might say that this is only Level 1 evaluation.

Most speakers and facilitators are used to relying on the sense they get after an event (the “feels”). Depending on their experience and how sensitive their radars are, this might be a gauge that can dovetail with other methods. The problem with relying solely on this method is that a person can experience 99 positive things and just one negative thing, but choose to dwell on the latter.

I have discovered another measure that has strong predictive and evaluative effects. This is the energy of the room. The room is often the combination of the physical venue and the people in it. It can also be online spaces for interacting with others and getting feedback.

The energy of a room takes many forms. For example:

  • How many people are there early or on time?
  • Are they smiling?
  • Do they make the effort to participate?
  • What is their body language as they sit or do?
  • What types of questions do they ask?
  • Are they there for just one session or many in a series?
  • Do they get the nuances or jokes?

The most important question to find answers to is: Are they there because they have to or want to? If they are part of the event by their own choice, half the battle is won. They will participate more willingly and they are likely to follow up with some action on their part.

Unfortunately, I cannot fully control this factor as I design learning experiences. I can merely influence it by urging organizers to carefully select participants or skillfully craft their communication. I take the trouble to do this because the energy from a room is infectious. It gives me the energy to keep doing what I do. It is also the initial tank of fuel for my participants’ journeys of change.

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