The room from hell and the power of improvisation

12th November 2009

Yesterday I facilitated a workshop at a Branding Conference and was unable to know the room details until I arrived. I had done all my preparation, and had a creative design to get 30 people engaged in some work in a 90 minute session. Then I saw the room!!!

The room was about the size of my son’s bedroom! It comfortably fitted about 15 chairs and I was expecting 30. So, I set to rolling up my sleeves and rearranging the furniture, kicking tables into the corridor, moving flipcharts and finally I managed to get enough chairs in the room for the delegates.

I then looked at my design and realised that I needed to change it. I needed to split into fewer groups and really work to keep the energy up in such a cramped environment.

So, the session started. I fronted with the group that the conditions were not ideal, but that we needed to get some work done together and, they looked like a hard working bunch! As the temperature started to rise, with the room bunged with people, we developed a technique of opening the doors when people were speaking and leaving them open when they were working in groups. The group got stuck into the conversations they needed to have and produced some great outputs in limited time and difficult conditions.

I have been a bit spoilt with the venues I have worked in recently and this room was a gentle reminder of the importance of environment. That said, I think we compensated by modifying the design, appealing to people’s hard working nature and having good questions that engaged the participants. As always being prepared to improvise was key and it would have been a mistake to stick to my original plan.