You can get 150 public servants to play (seriously) at a conference

There are a number of clowning games I had only ever taught to groups of about ten – until I opened day 2 of the Local Government Professionals Women’s summit and had 130 women walking around the room, playing.

Play evokes learning

If you think clown is slapstick, my style of clown is more modern and less literal. If you think play is for children or cringeworthy ice-breakers, think about the concept of Lila, or divine play that makes (say) puppies learn the skills for life. For the style of clown I practice, play is fun and can even be silly, but it always evokes learning.

While games can be played to evoke learning in a specific category (say teamwork or communications) the specific takeaways are often unknown until you do it. This means the play-er is participatory, observational and reflective all at once.

You learn more when you play the same game over and over – and over

One ‘game’ we played relentlessly with my clowning teachers was the “walk around the room game”. (I tend to name games rather literally.) Everyone, literally, walks around the room.

This might not sound like much of a game, but it is amazing how much play you can find in something so simple. Even for adults, and especially if done repeatedly, past the point of boredom so you can notice the subtle and unobvious.

The same game can teach you about lots of things

I use the “walk around the room game” in training to warm people up, tune into themselves, notice others, notice their environment, notice how comfortable they are with eye contact, develop complicité in a group, observe patterns, learn how comfortable they are with rules, notice how other people follow rules (or don’t), notice what they notice. The more you play the more you notice.

All from one simple game, with a few carefully chosen variations.

One creative constraint changes everything

At the Local Government Women’s summit the “walk around the room game” was impeded by your typical conference tables and chairs and by a lot of people. Yet it worked, perhaps because of the “creative constraint” that meant people had to work harder to stay aware.

My favourite moment: when I introduced the rule “there must be one person walking around the room at any one time and only one person”. When people think they are following the rules (but aren’t) and when others have responses to that, that’s when things get really interesting.

This is an excerpt from Finding Your Voice, a workshop for women finding their voice in the workplace. Incorporates storytelling, play and reflection. Designed for 120 people. Get in touch to find out more.

Being heard is not about being loudest

When I was a young engineer, I was told to be more assertive. I was given tips like, “Be the first to speak up in meeting”, or “Apply for jobs even if you don’t meet all the criteria”. Apparently the lack of representation of women in the workplace could be solved by being louder.

But speaking up doesn’t mean you are heard. And being heard doesn’t mean anything changes. (Refer the last three decades on climate change.)

I was invited to open day 2 of the Local Government Professionals Women’s summit with a 90-minute storytelling, clown-inspired, historically referenced workshop, Finding Your Voice.

If engineering taught me that being more assertive was not enough, clown taught me that sometimes (in fact, mostly) not saying something is even better.

The silence of clown, or the yogi, or the person with a contribution to make, is not a passive silence. It is a silence of listening. Of observing. Rather than speaking to assert oneself, they speak at the right time for their audience, their students and those they intend to influence.

Finding Your Voice is a workshop for women finding their voice in the workplace. Incorporates storytelling, play and reflection. Designed for 120 people. Get in touch to find out more.

Conscious play : the same game is different every time

In “clown school” students play the same games over and over.  Even the simplest of games offers opportunities to develop as a performer, and these lessons which aren’t always available the first time we try the game.  Repeating the same game with the same rules invites us to tune into the subtlety and depth of our learning, rather than rushing off to the next thing, looking for answers somewhere else.

Continue reading “Conscious play : the same game is different every time”

The keys to great facilitation: clowning for presence and connection

Explore awareness and presence as a facilitator using clown and physical play  

Clowning workshop for facilitators

“You’ll practice letting go and rediscover spontaneity.”

This workshop is a unique opportunity for facilitators, trainers and educators to develop the aspects to facilitation that differentiate a good facilitator from a really great one: someone who is comfortable with themselves, connected to the group they are working with, and tuned in to where the discussion needs to go.

Through movement, play and the art of clown we explore how being present in your body helps you better connect with the people you are working with, and how an understanding of theatrical devices like timing and rhythm can help you better manage the energy in the room and the flow of the day.

The art of clown holds surprising parallels to the work of a facilitator, allowing us to develop the intangible but critical aspects to facilitation that are often developed only on the job.  Many of us think of clown as silliness and slapstick (which it can be) but there is a much deeper learning enabled by this type of play. We learn to be more comfortable in ourselves (or notice when we are not comfortable), to explore the tensions between doing and being still, and to understand more about how we are with others.

We also find in clown-inspired play a number of practical performance skills that help with running engaging training sessions, such as timing, using tension in a health way, playing with rhythm and lifting the energy in a room.

For facilitators, teachers and people who lead groups. Places limited to ten.

Who is this workshop for?  Facilitators, trainers, educators and people who work with people – from freelancers to organisations like Department of Water, Challenger TAFE, Powerhouse Museum and Department of Agriculture – have all come along to this workshop and expressed enjoyable, practical, professional learning.

“It was valuable to take myself out of traditional facilitator type training and try something new.”

“A great and valuable experience – you learn so much about yourself through small games and activities with other people.” (Janni, Meld Studios, Sydney)

“Most valuable for my professional life was widening the possibilities for leading facilitation, and finding links between theatre and work.” (Andrew Botros, Expressive Engineering, NSW)

“I will remember to say committed to my audience/client needs, listening deeply and engaging to find creative solutions.” (Kate, performer, NSW)

“Tell future participants they’ll find room to play and discover themselves in a supportive, open environment.” (Dominique, Meld Studios, Sydney) 

“I’ll be making room for stillness and allowing people to come to conclusions without telling them how to get there.” (Gemma, Facilitator at Scitech, WA)

“The most valuable thing for my professional life was watching the group form and doing things easily, not the hard way”.
(Beth, Disabilities Services Commission)

“A highlight was thinking more consciously about how it feels to be an audience member and how I can reflect on this experience as a facilitator.” (Jacqui, Challenger TAFE)

“In the future I’ll be more relaxed and self-aware…” (Diana, Life without Borders)

“I loved it.”
(Kate Raynes-Goldie, lecturer at Curtin University)