Maintaining Energy and Engagement

No matter what kind of workshop you’re facilitating, maintaining energy levels is critical for maintaining engagement. If people feel physically or mentally tired, they’ll lose concentration and check-out.

The simplest way to maintain energy levels is to keep the workshop—and workshop participants—moving. Use a range of different exercises and activities; change up group sizes and structures; and make sure people are physically moving in the room. Keep exercises short and snappy, and make sure there is a mix of thinking, talking, listening and creating. Think of your workshop as bite-sized activities, strung together to create a whole.

When developing a workshop plan, consider that most people need a change of pace every 7-12 minutes to stay engaged. For some people, that time span is even less! The idea is to maintain interest and engagement for the length of an activity, then use a change of pace to re-set the concentration clock.

Check out these simple ways to mix up your workshop and keep people engaged.

1. Small Group Discussions
When working with large groups, it can be helpful for people to break into smaller groups, so that everyone gets a chance to share ideas and have their voice heard. However, there is more than one way to facilitate small group discussions, so mix and match the methods to keep things interesting. Check out our blog post on 7 Ways to Facilitate Small Group Discussions here.

2. Micro-Movements
Think of ways you can encourage participants to move their bodies. For example, instead of plotting their agreement on a flipchart, ask them to stand on a physical continuum across the room. Instead of asking them to form small groups around tables, ask them to have a standing conversation. Invite participants to raise their hand if…or snap their fingers when…Anything that encourages micro-movement.

3. Change the Space
If I am facilitating sessions over several days, I often make a point of changing the space at the end of each day. This might be as simple as shifting some tables around, and sometimes I remove the tables altogether. It depends on the workshop and what we’re trying to achieve.

If it’s not possible to change the space, it can be helpful for participants to use alternate spaces for small group discussions—particularly if your workshop is happening over several days. Consider inviting people to take their small group discussions outside or into another room if space allows.

4. Deliberate Energisers
If you sense that participants are starting to fade, it can be helpful to introduce an activity that is nothing more than a deliberate energiser. These activities can feel silly for some, so it’s important to introduce them with as much energy and enthusiasm as you can muster. If you are excited about the activity, your participants will be too.

Some of my favourite energisers are old-style party games like Heads and Tails, Paper-Scissors-Rock or Thumb Wars. I’ve used these energisers with groups of 30 and 300, and it’s amazing how much energy is created by a little competition.

5. Micro-Breaks
If you’re running a full day workshop, the long stretch between lunch and afternoon tea can feel like a marathon. One way to break up that stretch is to have a micro-break, which is simply 3 minutes to grab a glass of water and run to the toilet. Make sure participants know that a longer break is coming, and strictly adhere to the 3-minute rule.

6. Turn Up the Music
Music has a huge influence on physical energy, so make use of different soundtracks to support the energy you want in the room. If you are working with a group over an extended period of time, use the first introduction round to ask for their favourite energy-boosting song. Use their suggestions to create a playlist you can use in future workshops.

7. Watch Refreshments
While not strictly part of the workshop, refreshments can have a big impact on energy levels. Traditionally workshop and conference catering is full of fried foods and sickly sweets, which means the post-lunch crash is pretty dramatic. If you have any say over the catering for your workshop, try to include some fresh fruit or salads, and plenty of protein. Always make sure there is cold water readily available too.

The most important factor for maintaining energy and engagement is to read the room. If you notice the energy is lacking, do something different—even if it’s not on the plan. There is no point pushing through, if no-one is coming with you.

Kerri Price
Kerri is a professional facilitator with over 20 years experience in facilitation roles. She is the founder of The Facilitators Network and regularly facilitates workshops on Facilitation and Building a Facilitation Business.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top