I have no idea what mystery factor makes up a positive, inspiring group dynamic, why some groups mesh together so well and others don’t. In my work I see all kinds, but I am always in awe of a group of people that come together with me, a total stranger, to have a day of inspiration that exceeds even my imagination.
Last week I was lucky enough to have such an experience with a corporate client that I partnered with through Emory University. I designed a presentation skills workshop for them and was told that my participants would consist of people from Italy, Cuba, Mexico, and the United States. How perfect for me, I thought to myself, until I remembered the deep obligation a facilitator has to a multicultural group. In every group of people you have a variety of learning styles; when you throw in different cultures you have even more to juggle. Your awareness must be heightened as it is not the job of a facilitator to impose his or her teaching style on the participants. What’s important is that they connect with the experience and the information. When I walked in the room for day one of my training I must admit to a little anxiety.
I need not have worried one iota. From the moment I began the introductions I saw the openness of my participants to my teaching style, and I felt their authenticity. As I mentioned in a previous post (see Where the Highroad Meets the Stars in Wapakoneta, Ohio) I had been seeking a way to connect my childhood dream of going to space with the work I do now. I found that link in the new Highroad Star Quality Speaking program, a presentation skills workshop based on putting bullet points aside, breaking free of fear, and presenting in a way that’s memorable. In this program I urge my clients to take one small step at a time, as Neil Armstrong did, toward making their presentations more powerful yet more simple.
As I worked through these principles with my multicultural group I watched them go from hesitation to inspiration, from talking about their products to talking about why their products mattered to their clients. I basked in the incredible talent in that room: we had a photographer, a martial artist, an aerobics instructor, and more. In addition to their interesting jobs at the company they had rich outside lives and great stories. Their dedication to their work shined through and they had so much to offer in the way of ideas for how to take the company to the next level.
We laughed, brainstormed, and told stories of our world travels. I saw one participant go from talking about her insecurities around body language and the English language to jumping up to volunteer for every presentation. Several of the participants contacted me after the two day workshop and made commitments to apply the Star Quality Speaking principles in their speaking engagements. I recognize that not every training class can be that inspired, but I will never stop trying to, as Captain Picard of Star Trek says, make it so.
Thank you to my wonderful participants for your willingness to aim for the stars and take one small step toward offering more of your authentic selves in your presentations. Your personalities and experiences will stay with me for a long time to come.