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Leading a small workshop?  Like to find out, upfront, how much they already know? Or how they feel about your topic?  Try a fun, audience involver called the Spectrogram. This exercise also helps them feel heard, learn a bit about each other and get closer. Plus it is simple to set up and to do – as I’ve discovered after using it in nine interactive seminars.

Beforehand place a line of colored tape across open space on the floor of the workshop  – preferably in front of the room. Make it about 20 yards long. Mark one end of the tape “Strongly Agree” and the other end “Strongly Disagree.” Make cross-marks on the tape at the appropriate places for  “25%”, “50%” and “75%.”

Then ask attendees their reactions to two extremes of a statement that relates to your topic. SocialSignal (they borrowed this exercise from Aspiration) describes what happens next when they do this in their workshop on adopting digital communication tools:

“We’ll tell participants the two extreme statements. They represent the opposite poles of a spectrum. Then we ask them to line up between those poles on the tape – depending where they feel they fit in on that continuum. We might ask ‘How comfortable are you with communicating online?’, and offer the two poles ‘It makes me hyperventilate with sheer terror’ and ‘You mean there’s another way to communicate?’ Then we ask a few participants at various places on the spectrum to explain why they chose this particular point.”

After that exercise you’ll know some of their hot buttons and strong interests. You can adjust your approach to the level of knowledge you’ve observed, first-hand from their comments. Plus you can refer to their comments as conduct the seminar. That proved might popular when I could tie a technique to a point raised in the Spectrogram exercise.

Sometimes participants think if questions they wish had been asked. That’s what Beth Kanter discovered at this workshop for non-profits called Penguin Day.

moving from me to we


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