Planning events and trainings - goals, topic, method

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One person might like to prepare everything in detail. He reads texts,copies material that might be useful, and is the one to arrange everything in planning meetings. When changes to these carefully laid plans occur, he works up a sweat. He does not like when things do not go according to plan.

Another team colleague might work in a different way. She loves spontaneity. In the fever of performing a task and in team building during a training, new opportunities and perspectives arise for her. Hours of preparation get on her nerves, while unexpected situations are stimulating for her.

Every person is different, and our facilitators and participants each have preferred planning styles. Planning is the art of considering the following dimensions in an optimal way:

  1. Goals
  2. Topic
  3. Target groups - participants, visitors, ...
  4. You, the facilitators.

Planning does not mean determining everything in advance and preventing surprises – the way we often experienced curriculum plans in school. We introduce a model that allows you to plan meetings according to this idea. It focuses on the goals of your activity, is flexible enough to include spontaneous innovations, and reflects the participants’ needs and those of the facilitators.

Last but not least, your plan is deciding about your capacity to inclusive facilitation.

[edit] Following the Thread: General Goal and Subgoals

When you plan a meeting we recommend using a goal-content-method table. What is your meeting about? First describe the general issue you are dealing with in the meeting and how it is linked to the general, fundamental goals of your activity.

After you have got a topic, continue by defining one general and a few (approx. 5) subgoals for the meeting. This is the thread you can follow to give your meeting organizational shape. Formulating goals is helpful for participants because they should learn something and develop through the meeting: "The participants have learned/experienced/done…"


Time 9:00-9:30 9:30-10:00 10:30-12:00
1. Goals:
What do I want to achieve?
Participants have learned each other’s names.

They have got learned a little about the group. They have gotten to know one another in terms of the topic at hand.

2. Content:
How will I achieve it?
Active icebreakers to learn names…

Questions: How much do you know about Topic XYZ? How old are you?

3. Method:
How will I facilitate the unit?
Shoe game: P. take off one shoe, throw it into the middle;

P. each take a shoe out of the "pile of shoes," find the owner, and talk. Sociometric line-up: P. form a line according to their answers to these questions

4. Who? Peter, Pawel
5. Material and remarks Requires sufficient space.

Mark +/- on the floor for orientation

[edit] 1. Concrete Goals for Each Step: What do I want to achieve?

After you have a thread to follow, you can go into details. That means you can plan different units or didactical steps for the meeting. First we look at general goals and then we define concrete goals. The first question that can always help you define this is:

  • What do I want to achieve with this method or topic?

[edit] Why Starting With the Goal and not with a Method?

Practically speaking, it will often be the case that you already have a concrete method in mind that you want to pursue. This is the other way round – you start with a methodological approach and then try to see how it fits in with your general goals.

However, there are disadvantages to this approach. The first disadvantage is that you might not necessarily be able to describe what the sense is behind the unit that you are teaching. In this case, you have to offer your participants an explanation along the lines of: "We’re playing a game – you’ll understand later on." This is neither transparent nor especially professional. A person involved in training others does not always know how an exercise will develop over time. But he or she should always know why he or she is doing something.

The second is that you need criteria for reflection. If you do not know what you wanted to achieve, then it is difficult to measure success via observation. And if you do it too often, you risk losing track of your general objectives.

[edit] Gaining Flexibility for Interaction

The main advantage of a goal-oriented approach is that it makes you flexible and free to interact with your participants. Imagine a situation in which you have to change quickly – new topics have to be integrated or your participants are interested in focusing on a different topic than what you had planned. If you have goals in mind, you can act more spontaneously and try out new things – goals help you decide quickly if everything is moving in the right direction or if there is anything you should stop or change.

[edit] 2. Content

The next step is to define the content.

  • How can I achieve this goal?
  • What do I want to facilitate?

Here you can set up an icebreaker and write down questions or key words related to the content.

[edit] 3. Method

After having set the goal and the content, it is time to choose a method:

  • How will I achieve the goal?

Methods have to correspond to their goals. Often, there are many methods that can be used to achieve a single goal. When you need to choose from among several possibilities for how to teach a topic, you can ask:

  • Which of the methods will provide the best way to achieve my goals?
  • Verify that you addressed head, heart, and hands.
  • Check if the method is contributing to a balance between active and passive phases within the whole agenda.
  • Might the method or exercise be done by all kinds of participants involved, as well those with special needs?

[edit] 4. Roles of the Trainers

A larger team can include one facilitator and a supporting co-facilitator – this is also a good way to learn, since the co-facilitator can provide feedback afterwards. If you are running a meeting as a team, it makes sense to agree on goals, while the facilitator responsible for the unit decides on content and methods.

[edit] 5. Material and Remarks

You can also add the necessary material and remarks to the table. This can be helpful during preparation.

[edit] Time

Don’t forget to take into account the time you need for different units. Try to be realistic, add a buffer of about 20% and also allow time for breaks. This will be relaxing for you and the group.

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