Tools of the trade

I often find myself describing my job in terms of what it actually looks like. I frequently say something like: “imagine a room full of people, a flip chart stand and lots of Post -It notes”. It is true I do get through a lot of flip chart paper and sticky notes, but there are an awful lot of other things I use too. I sometimes think that the job of a facilitator would suit someone who has a massive love of stationary, because I do seem to have an amazing amount if it! The trick is to plan your sessions carefully so that you only actually travel around with what you actually need rather than a car boot full of stuff that looks like you have just raided WHSMITHS. So, where to begin…..

Stationary Tools

1) Buy a lovely spacious box to put your things in. I have a 12 Litre Really Useful Box.  This is big enough for me to fit quite a bit of stuff in, but not so big that you are tempted to carry the kitchen sink with you. This travels to workshops with me and contains my most useful things when it’s at home but doesn’t hold the reams of paper and extra pens and sundry other items that I have in my “office” (I work from home).

 

 

Really Useful Box

 

2) Essential items that I always have in my box are:

  • Sticky notes such as Post-It notes , Stick’n notes or Stickies – I find these are one thing I always need and I have several colours at once.

  • Coloured card – I usually have a stash at home and cut it up into the sizes I need to take with me to the workshop. I commonly use a lot of A5 card as this is good for participants to write ideas on and the size means that they have to be concise.

  • Coloured paper – works better than card if you are going to be using the Sticky Wall as it is lighter. It also folds better for certain activities.

  • Sticky Wall I know I’ve talked about this before but I love it! You do need to make sure you have the space in the room you are going to use as it needs a good wall to attach to. But I find that as well as being a brilliant tool, participants also rather like it as it is a bit of a novelty (unless they have used it before of course!).

  • Masking tape – to secure the Sticky Wall on the actual wall. Also useful for sticking lots of cards together at the end of the workshop or pieces of flip chart paper together for a larger workspace.

  • Pens – lots of them! Biros, marker pens and board markers. Expect not to come home with some of these as they do always go astray.

  • Elastic bands – useful for those rolled up pieces of flip chart paper.

  • Paper clips – really good for keeping pieces of paper together at the end of the workshop.

  • Coloured Sticky dots – useful for dot voting/prioritising and highlighting information.

  • Paper shapes – I have a few arrows that I have used for workshops and are useful for outlining processes or flows of information and circles/squares that are also useful to categorise things for example.

  • Scissors – an easy thing to forget but frustrating if you need them and you don’t have any.

  • Blue tac/white tac – invaluable although check with the venue before hand as not every one likes you sticking it on the wall.

3) Not in the box are my roles of flip chart paper and often my flip chart stand. I don’t always need this but even if a client says they have a flip chart stand, I don’t assume they are going to provide the paper.

4) Camera – a digital camera (or phone if yours is better than mine!) to record the information as it is produced in the workshop. Things do get shuffled around a lot when clearing up the workshop, no matter how hard you try not to.

5) Fiddle toys – sometimes I put little toys on tables for my participants to play with. It can be a good discussion starter and sometimes keeping your hands occupied means your mind is able to think better and stay focused.

6) I also often give my participants biscuits which is slightly less brilliant for them……….

So, while it’s not Blue Peter and there is no sticky backed plastic there are often a lot of bits and bobs involved. They take time to prepare (you really don’t want to be cutting up hundreds of bits of card 10 minutes before the workshop!), and time to set up and collect after the workshop. But a good selection of different materials, colours and textures makes workshops much more interesting and hopefully adds to one of your key tasks; keeping your participants fully engaged.

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