In my 15 years of facilitating Transformational Experiences for thousands of individuals and groups, I’ve come to learn that there are certain skills and elements you need to master as a leader and facilitator in order to be successful at creating lasting shifts, healing and real openings for your participants.
In fact, what I’ve come to see is that without these tools, things can go very, very wrong. Your workshops can fall flat or not go deep enough, or someone in the group will dominate and upset everyone else, or you will misuse your energy and feel exhausted and spent.
Here is a snapshot of some of the most valuable tools I’ve developed over hundreds and hundreds of rituals and workshops:
1. Create and Hold a Tight and Safe Container:
This is the most important tool to facilitating any kind of ritual of transformational experience for an individual or group. If your container is leaky, you will find that participants get bored or don’t go as deep as they could, or get upset at you or others in the group.From the very beginning – literally from the moment you walk in the room – you must make sure you are creating a very tight container, an environment that feels safe enough for your participants to open up, be vulnerable, share with you and the group, and transform.And you must make sure you hold that container throughout the work so that it remains tight and doesn’t fall apart.
2. Create a sense of Community & Sisterhood:
If you are leading a workshop, ritual, or any other transformational experience that includes a group of people, creating a strong sense of community, sisterhood and belonging will make the difference between a “flat” workshop and a workshop that is engaging, transformational, and one where clients participate, open up, learn from you and learn from each other.Group experiences aren’t just about the leader or guide who is facilitating, they are about everyone in the room. As the leader, you must step-by-step create a sense of community that will help everyone feel welcomed, seen, and connected- to you and to the group as a whole.
3. Take Your Participants on a Journey:
One of the biggest mistakes I see facilitators make is that they throw a bunch of good content together for a ritual or workshop or retreat, but the content doesn’t relate from one piece to the next, and it doesn’t tell a story. If you do this, your clients will stay on the surface with your material and fail to make deeper connections for themselves.Instead, when you lead a group through any kind of experience, be very clear on where your clients are going to start and where they are going to end. You want to thoughtfully and strategically craft that experience into a step-by-step journey where each ritual or experiential action builds on the next, and where each piece of content you presents is like following a pathway towards a goal.
4. Take Care of Yourself and your Energy (plus make sure your clients do the same!):
The very first time I led a retreat on my own, it was when I was living in NYC. At the end of the first day, I got in a taxi to go home to Brooklyn from Manhattan, and was so utterly exhausted, spent and overfilled from the day that I threw up all over the back seat of the taxi. It was a hard (& gross) lesson in the value of taking care of yourself and your energy when you facilitate.I now have many different little tools and tricks to make sure I not only stay energized and healthy throughout extended retreats, but also so that I help my clients stay energized throughout for greatest learning and transformational capacity (because if your clients or students lose steam during their afternoon or weekend with you – they will stop learning, and instead feel heavy and ready to leave).
5. Activate the 5 Senses for Deepest Learning and Processing:
Think back through the most transformational and healing experiences you’ve had. Chances are, they haven’t just activated your mind and your thoughts.In order to be in a state of deepest learning, shifting and receptivity, you must learn through your body. In order to fully process emotion, you must learn through your body. In order to not only have a breakthrough, but to activate the shifting in your cells to break pattern, you must learn through your body. If you want your rituals and workshops to have this kind of impact on your clients, craft ritual actions and exercises that use all 5 senses.
6. Don’t let 1 Client or Participant Take the Group Hostage:
Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen to unseasoned & seasoned facilitators over and over again: You’ve created a beautiful ritual or retreat, your clients are engaged and learning, and then all of a sudden one participant has no boundaries or awareness of other people’s boundaries. She speaks for way too long, or demands more and more of your attention, or has an anger outburst that is inappropriate, or says something very offensive to someone else in the group.It’s a classic case of a participant taking the group as hostage.When I teach facilitation skills, I give step-by-step instructions on a number of tools that are crucial so that you know exactly how to respond when someone has taken the group hostage. You want to become masterful at this so that you don’t offend or hurt the person who is causing the situation, while also ensuring that everyone in your group has enough space to be seen and heard and receive what they need.