There is nothing like the smoothness of a…good segue

Facillitation No Comments

The performances of the band I play drums in have transformed this year. We have largely done this by creatively mashing (or bashing) songs by different artists into and over each other. We have enjoyed finding new ways to create medleys of tunes so we can move swiftly from one segment of a song to another. From an audience point of view this helps maintain interest and energy. It took us a fair bit of work to learn how to do this, but it is now much easier to do. And it is enjoyable too.

When I am asked “what makes for a great moderator?”, I tend to think about what makes the difference between adequate and exceptional talent. And in answer to that, I think one of the key things is the same as what makes for a good (or in our case, improving!) band: an in-depth knowledge of how best to ensure a slick (or at least skilled) and interesting connecting between the parts. Of course there are plenty of other moderation skills (responding flexibility when a plan needs to change, starting a session well, building rapport, dealing with difficult situations), but this is a key one, that often gets overlooked.

As I have noted in a couple of blogs recently the aim of facilitation is to make things easy– and by using various pointers and rules of thumb we can build the suspense for, and attraction to, what is coming in the next chunk. As with a band, if this is got right, the agenda just flows. Even if there are problems and push backs it seems more like surfing in on a great wave, and rather less like struggling out through breakers in a stormy sea – to add another analogy!

The skill of Smooth Segues is central to this sense of movement. A common facilitation nightmare is of low energy in a group – and the art of segues helps address this.

So what are some examples of, and pointers for, a good segue?

1. Early on, do use what you notice in the venue or the press or in your travels that day. Make a metaphorical connection if you can. I once worked in a welding institute on the day there was a split in a boy band – with a group who were meeting to discuss partnership (once they had arrived through the gridlock of local traffic)…you can get a sense of some of the things I used!
2. Remind the group of the overall task regularly – be clear what question the session is designed to answer.
3. Confirm, both verbally and in writing (slide, poster, clip chart) what you are asking of a group at any particular moment.
4. Be ready to share what you have heard in a session that has interested you. Be ready with a question. Listen to all speakers (presenters, group members), and follow your curiosity with open ended, inquiry questions.
5. Use images, humour and stories to illustrate the links from one part to another – choosing what you say each time you get the groups attention (e.g. after small group work, after a break etc.) really matters. What tales from lunch, the days weather etc. can you use? Recently I was able to make a focused link into the last session where we were about to look for some small steps and actions, by reference to what I had learnt about the Swedish spelling of millionaire that day. Sounds dry? But it worked…ask me, you might get a feel from the slides (though maybe not!)
6. Linked to this, be prepared to be wacky: look for lateral links. For example, share what is trending on social media and ask what connections there might be to the day’s proceedings. How can you use any photos from the group or even the weather! Reflect back ideas you are hearing. For example, come back after a break having googled any key ideas or topics from earlier. Acknowledge people who make bold or boisterous points. Be brave – what seems risky is often fine, and playing it safe can be plain dull and lead to negative group dynamics.
7. Be creative in your use of energisers: tongue twisters, human histograms, guessing north, conducting music, group percussion, quizzes, games etc…let your (internet inspired?) interest and creativity run wild if the event allows it. And seek volunteers too…you will be amazed at what people know (yoga is common) or can imagine (charades on the days content) or are prepared to try on their colleagues (laughter therapy)!
8. Think of how you signal time – a visible clock, shout out reminders, music, chime, checking out if people are done, letting it go etc.

Good segues show you are listening, lighten the mood, lessen the load and lead to next thing. They frame and focus each session, reduce the anxiety groups members can feel (especially in large groups between the fear of abandonment or attack) and channel or even create energy. They reduce the likelihood of a facilitation nightmare, be it silence or rejection or fighting.

Overall – be authentic in what you offer.

But try to be balanced, not just doing the things you would like! A useful rule of thumb is to try and provide something for everyone, regardless of personality. For example, in terms of MBTI, try to provide both information and illustration segues that work for all participants, whether they are big picture thinkers or a totally into the detail, wanting freedom or a bit of structure, a logical thinker or much more intuitive.

I regularly use the ‘Goldilocks test’ to check anything from the speed of a meeting to the temperature of the room. I hope you find that by applying these principles your groups tell you things are “just right”.

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