Barbara Hauser is a Master Trainer.
This article was originally published October 6, 2011.
How do you balance discussion (i.e., answering questions, debriefing, taking stories from participants) with staying on track with material—especially if it is a really good discussion?
This is such a good question. I like to do two things. Right up front, when we establish the ground rules for participation in the program, I say that I’m going to assume the role of discussion leader—for the purpose of keeping us on track so that we can get to the practical, skill-building part of the program. I’ll add that there’s often a need for folks to process the content by talking it out. To honor that, we’ve built in several small group discussions where they will have the time and space to do a lot of sharing. We do want to hear from individuals in our large-group discussions too—and that’s where I’ll keep everyone mindful of the time constraints! When we hit a point where the discussion threatens to go on too long, I’ll interrupt, acknowledge the value of what the person’s saying (e.g., “The situation you’re describing is a great example of this principle”), and add, “As the ‘time warden/discussion leader,’ let me suggest that we move on so we can get some practice using our new tools.” (Or something like that.) I find that people really appreciate it when you take a firm stand to manage the time you have together wisely and when you set things up at the beginning so it’s safe to do so.