How the location communicates with workshop participants

It makes sense to carefully choose and invest in the right location in which you conduct workshops. As much as non-verbal communication influences how we perceive another person as much does a room and its development over time influence the participant’s performance.

Choosing the right location

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Will Rogers

This famous quote is typically used in interpersonal interaction but it applies to a workshop location, too. If participants contribute their work and travel time to you, they should feel valued when they arrive. Making sure that location and initial set-up are inviting and suitable to the group size, is the first building block of a successful session.

That, of course, doesn’t mean that workshops always have to take place in exclusive locations. Often a down-to-earth but comfortable and natural environment is the right choice to nurture creativity and keep energy levels high.

The pictures above were kindly provided by Gut Sonnenhausen (Glonn, Bavaria, www.sonnenhausen.de)

Space is important. If you want to conduct break out sessions and active group sessions, it’s necessary to allow for focussed work. Depending on the exercise, a large room can be beneficial to create social dynamics: you can see the others working and don’t want to seem lazy. Sometimes it makes sense to provide break out rooms if you, i.e. conduct challenges or competitions.

Preparing and developing the location

If you value your participant’s efforts, you should go the extra mile – or better: invest the extra hour or night in preparation. Facilitators should always arrive with enough time at hand to
familiarise themselves with rooms, ways and walls,
ensure that all the material is available, and
prepare the work areas for the participants, if required by the format.

There’s no better start to the day than entering a room that already tells you: someone has invested time and effort in getting things ready. It creates curiosity for the day ahead and the exercises that might await the group.

Progress makes people proud. That’s why you should plan for a room that could “develop” along the workshop and become the documentation in itself.

The walls should tell the story of the day when you’re done. That will make photo documentation extra powerful because people will remember the experience and how the room “felt” to them during and at the end of the day.