Saturday, March 15, 2008

What's in a Name?

Yesterday I attended a workshop in Taunton, Somerset (UK) about (what the leaders called) the art of workshop.

OK, anything can be an art, and there is art in anything well done. But that's a bit of a reach.

It turned out to be three women who seemed to be working out their ideas about what to do in such a workshop on us. That would not be so bad, really, if they had a clear idea about what they were trying to accomplish (we all teach so we learn). But instead, I had the distinct impression we were paying for the privilege of teaching them what they should be looking for, doing, and why.

Needless to say, I was glad the thing wasn't expensive.

Workshops are a Crap Shoot

Anyone who has ever attended a workshop knows that it's a crap shoot. You are never quite sure what is going to happen, who will attend (very important to how the thing goes), or what you'll learn (if anything).

I won't go into detail on this one, but suffice it to say that there were workshop leaders from all over the country who were led around without being consulted about how the thing was going -- except in terms of how to do it better next time.

Why not check in while the thing was happening and change directions when needed?

Learned A Lot (But Not As Advertised)

I came out of the day having learned what Sarah Mooney, my storytelling partner, and I need to insure when we lead our own programs. And I learned it better than if it had been taught on purpose.

1. These things need to be fun. Don't take yourself or your project too seriously.

2. They need to be fun through play. Real play. This means you, workshop leaders.

While doodling as you do in your teenage self while the grown-ups drone on, a fellow participant and I embellished a map of "workshop" we had created in a fit of silliness to meet the criteria of a completely different assignment (write a manifesto for workshop -- we should tell them?).

This participant crossed out the word "work" and replaced it with "play" -- as in playshop.

Playing means free movement -- of ideas, of the body, of relationships. Don't try to control things by sticking to the program. Honor your participants by checking in with them, and adjust accordingly.

3. Ask questions well -- and with precision.

Come up with an angle on an old question that can change perspective on the issue. No guarantees, but a little creativity and thought goes a long way.

More in the next post.

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