Friday, August 24, 2007

The Expandable and Shrinkable Talk

Very often I’ve found that when I’m asked to facilitate one short workshop, I’ll show up and find my name all over the agenda as if I’ve suddenly become very popular while out of the room. This is a practice known as Make the Consultant Do It. It's extremely popular. I may have thought I was doing 60 minutes in a workshop on Effective Questioning in the Classroom, and instead I have a half day for whatever I want (or for a topic that has spontaneously been assigned to me as my expertise). On the opposite end of the spectrum, and more recently, I thought I had a half hour for one very specific activity, which was quickly whittled to ten minutes because the speaker before ran late.

Rather than arguing with a timekeeper about “my” time, I find it’s easier to have an activity, talk, or presentation that is easily expandable or shrinkable given the time allotted. Ms. Kitty talked about this in terms of sermons and audience. This means that beforehand I need to have engaged in something called “backwards planning.” I figure out what I need people to come away knowing from the activity, talk, or presentation. And then I figure out how to get them there and what is absolutely necessary to say and do and what is helpful, but could be cut. Because, of course, things always change.