The human brain uses up to 20% of the body’s energy resources (more than any other single organ) hence it is vital to ensure that the energy level of a creative session is as high as it can be. The best creative facilitators focus their efforts on influencing the energy of the group from start to finish; it will never perfect and takes practice. Here are some of my top tips for getting the energy right.
Create the right environment
Never accept the space in which you will be conducting the session: a little effort and imagination can transform even the dullest room. Not too soft with beanbags and not too hard with high back chairs and a big table; find a happy medium. It is better to contain activity to just one space, not breakout rooms. A little chaos allows people to feed off each other’s energy and background noise reduces inhibitions.
Personify the energy
Upon entering the room, pause and take a moment to read the energy of the group. Ask everyone to score their energy from 1 to 10 and explain why. It makes a change from the usual ice breakers, giving each person a chance to find their voice, and is a great way to gauge what you have got to work with and what needs to be done. Then, lead by example.
Try to avoid too many party games (especially if they make you feel uncomfortable) which can easily invoke cynicism and create barriers. Design a few energisers beforehand that have relevance to your content and which you, as facilitator, will be able to guilelessly and convincingly demonstrate: Go first. Deep breathing, brisk walk, loud music all work well.
Keep the energy elevated
Keep the pace moving and energy maintained by frequent changes to the groups in which people work, which should be small. Switch between pairs, threesomes and solo sessions, keeping everyone anticipating what will come next and giving them no opportunity to hide in the safety of a large group.
Intersperse sitting activities with standing. Standing improves blood flow to the brain by up to 15%, which increases its oxygen level and raises energy.
Break little and often
Most of us are not able to fully focus our brains for lengthy periods. Research conducted in the 1980s looked at the link between mental agility and declining productivity. The result was the Pomodoro Technique - a 25 minute work cycle, punctuated with short breaks. Ideally, breaks should be taken outside and, if they are to include eating or drinking, do so healthily. When people return to the session, re-energise them and crack on with another short, concentrated burst of activity.
Interject some humour
Laughter is good for us. It serves to bond people; releases endorphins; sends oxygen to our brains and relaxes us. When we are relaxed we have greater access to our subconscious which is where all our best ideas reside. No matter how serious the issues being addressed, do not allow a creative session to be taken too seriously. Actively encourage a little fun and laughter.
Aristotle once said: “the energy of the mind is the essence of life.” And so it is true of a creative session: get the energy right; let the minds’ essence flourish and reap the creative bounty.