You did everything right leading your workshop. People work together like a charm, the air is buzzing with creativity and happiness. But when the time comes to present what your participants worked on, all what you hear is dead silence. No one wants to start the presentations.
What is behind this phenomena and what you can do so your participants will jump at the opportunity to present their findings? For quick answers check the Summary in the end of the article. Or read on and let’s geek out about leadership and group dynamics.
In my teambuilding workshops I often work with a large number of participants who are in separate project teams. In cases like this, I really like to do exercises where the project teams co-create something then present it to each other.
For example, creating a flag for the team, aligning on a the main goal for the team and creating a vision statement, or coming up with a short theater performance to introduce their group.
The reason for this is to create a safe and inspiring space for the group to get to know each other and set the foundations of effective group work for the future. With these kind of exercises it is not only the end result what is important but also how the team arrives to that result. They surface how people behave in groups by thinking together, solving complex tasks and aligning on group decisions. The right exercises (paired with effective integration) not only build familiarity and trust but also create insights for building a team culture that points towards high performance on a group level, while fulfilling individual needs and wants in the team.
Presentations for inspiration
After an exciting co-creation phase, it is important that the teams present their work. This creates a clear deadline for the groups to finish their work, helps them to reiterate their findings in an easy to understand and concise way while enabling participants to learn from each other.
Interestingly, when it is time to present their work sometimes there are no team that dares to go first.
No worries, this is a usual habit of humans.
A reason why this happens is that many people fear public speaking more than death. We fear how our peers would judge us or if we might “look silly”. Back in cavemen times this might have lead our tribe of burly cave people to abandon us in the middle of the jungle, which meant certain death. Luckily, in a workshop situation this is not the case.
(If you also feel more butterflies in your stomach than you want before doing a presentations then check out our article on how to conquer stage fright).
How to support workshop participants to be more confident on stage?
If you notice that people might feel a little squeamish then there are a few things that you can do.
Take a mental note that you might want to do these activities for the next time you lead a workshop
Set the framework for the workshop right in the start.
Discuss and align on the norms and guidelines of how people want to and will behave in the workshop. This is kind of a social contract between the facilitator and all of the workshop participants to align expectations and set guidelines on how things will go during the workshop. For example try this guideline next time if your workshop participants seem overly concerned on not doing things perfectly: “It is OK to make mistakes here because we are here to experiment and learn.”
Warm people up to be more social with some easy energizer activities.
I like energizers in the beginning of the workshop or after a long break to kickstart the vibe of the session. Your goal is to create a safe space and a reason for people to open up and be a bit more social and creative. For example, you can try these icebreakers and energizers.
Set a the framework for the specific presentation exercise
By describing its goal, why the group is doing it and its success criteria. Is it important to make the presentation perfect? Then of course, there is more pressure on the participants to make their pitch flawless. But if the goal of people presenting their work is to inspire other teams, see the teams’ progress or simply to have fun together, then there is little pressure on the teams to do things perfectly.
What you can do right there in case nobody wants to start the presentations?
Check-in with the group
Feel into the vibe if the people are just a little stage frightened but they are ready to roll if they get a little motivation, or if there is something blocking them. Maybe the exercise is not clear, maybe they need a break, or some other reason.
If you think that the reason is not just a little stage fright, then the easiest way to surface the challenge is to ASK.
Ask the group to indicate with their hands how clear they feel about the exercise. The higher they raise their hand the clearer they feel about what to do and the lower is their hand, the more confused they are. If you see lots of low hanging hands then you can invite people to ask what they feel unsure of.
Pro tip: If there are some people who feel very confident in what to do, while others feel confused, then the people feeling sure of the exercise can introduce it to their teammates.
If only a little stage fright blocks the presentations:
Play the chicken game You ask who would like to do the first presentation and then WAIT….WAIT for it… and after a few long seconds there will be a team who volunteers.
Pick the chosen one: you could simply pick the first team to present which seems to be the most prepared.
Make it into a game: This is one of my favorite technique to pick the first teams to present because it makes the whole process fun instead of stressful. What you do is roll a DICE to let Lady Luck decide which team presents first.
How this woks in practice is that you assign each team a number of the dice. For example, team A presents if the dice shows 1-3 or team B presents if the dice shows 4-6. Then, roll the dice and marvel at the delicious excitement building up in the room as each team is holds its breath to see if they will be the next standing in the spotlight.
I got my dice from a toy store. If you want to get one yourself, then this dice looked the best online (affiliate link).
- Doing presentations to showcase one’s work is helpful to condense and reiterate thoughts. It also inspires other participants at the workshop.
- Humans habitually squeamish of public speaking because of the fear of other people judging them.
- Set the workshop framework to create a safe atmosphere by aligning with the participants on how they want to be during the workshop.
- Warm up people’s social muscles with icebreakers.
- Be clear when you introduce activities.
- Make picking the first presenter into a game, for example with a dice.
That’s all for now folks!