Briefing an exercise should be easy right? Yet how come it sometimes feels hard? People don’t seem to get it and spend time asking you questions for understanding and clarity?
A poorly briefed exercise can lead to time lost, a frustrated group, an irritated you and exercises executed poorly and not achieving the outcomes you intended.
We are responsible for our communication and the messages that the group receive. Therefore we need to ensure our communication is clear, rich in meaning and simple that everyone understands it.
Here are 5 things you can start to practise in your delivery.
1. The why, what and how
At the start of the brief explain to the group WHY the following exercise is of relevance. Join the dots to its meaning and relationship with the workshop. Then describe WHAT the objective of the exercise is. This gives people a headline to the final outcome. You do not have to tell them how to get there though. That is the learning part. Finally describe the HOW. Exactly how will the group experience the exercise. What is the structure, format and timing.
Miss one of these elements out and the group will ask you questions for clarification or understanding.
2. One step at a time
When briefing an exercise the temptation is to download what it is the group have to do at speed, with minimal pause for thought and breath. Describing from start to finish what the exercise is, how it will flow, how the debrief will happen and what it is you have to do.
This is a little overwhelming for people and information will be lost. Break down into steps what it is you are asking the group to do, invite the group to move, pick up a pen, find someone to work with. Deliberately pause to allow people time to action the request.
e.g. the exercise is to work in pairs, writing personal thoughts on individual post-it notes before sharing with the partner.
The temptation could be to say:
‘in pairs, pick up some post-it notes, write your own thoughts on the post-its then share with your partner what you wrote. You have 10 minutes to complete the exercise and then we will debrief back in plenary’
3. Model the behaviour
People listen with their eyes. People will watch what you do and follow your instructions. Model what it is you are asking the group to do and they will do it. Be big and bold in your actions and movements. You need to think about what you do with your hands, arms and your body. Don’t be shy – give it a try!
Lets use the example from above.
4. Write it on a poster
Some people listen, some people watch and some people read. Help yourself by writing the instructions on a flipchart before the workshop starts.
Refer to the flipchart and instructions as you explain and model the exercise.
Place the instructions flipchart on a wall where everyone can see it.
Replace the instructions flipchart as the exercises change, use the same wall position. People will get used to looking at that position on the wall for the instructions. This is called spatial anchoring.
5. Ask a question
Having gone through steps 1 to 4 the group should be with you and understand WHAT it is they are about to do, WHY they are doing it and HOW it is going to happen.
A fail safe action is to ask the group to repeat back what it is they have to do – especially if it is a complex activity.
Be firm, be louder in your voice, a tone of enquiry
‘What is it we are going to do? Step 1………’
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