Right from the outset the IAF Oceania 2016 Conference was fantastic! The buzz started with reconnecting with my facilitator colleagues from around the globe then continued when I attended a pre-conference workshop ‘Understanding Group Functioning using Aesthetic/Intuitive Senses’ with Dr George Wills, a psychologist and Rhonda Tranks, CPF. The day flew by as we explored our work with groups using a very different frame of reference than I would normally.
At the opening plenary, not only did IAF Regional Director Nick Housego highlight the two 2015 Facilitation Impact Awards achieved in Oceania, he unexpectedly also gave Marg Leser and Andrew Huffer, facilitators for the Perth initiative and me the opportunity to share details with the conference – that’s me above talking off the cuff to Conference. It was wonderful to get this air time for the Gisborne District Council’s project and it generated a lot of interest in the stakeholder engagement processes I’d used.
My conference workshop was scheduled for day 1. It was designed for beginning facilitators, however, most people who joined me for the session were very experienced. This meant a few changes on the fly with how I ran the workshop. So I was gratified to receive feedback comments such as “Invaluable workshop with Sheryl Smail. Great to watch her facilitate. Learnt heaps.” The bonus for me was that I got heaps out of it too!
I was very pleased with the choices I made for the concurrent workshops I attended. The sessions I attended were diverse, lots of fun and I learnt new things from each of them. The ‘Facilitation Lab’ that Nick Housego, CPF and Pauline Bergin, CPF facilitated grabbed our attention from the start – commencing with parts of a ‘dead’ facilitator strewn all around the room! The session built on real facilitation case studies that each of them had experienced. Hong Li Lim, CPF facilitated a thought provoking and engaging session ‘Do you know your inner strengths and driving motivation?’. In addition to the key learnings of her session I picked up lots of tips re simple effective activities. Then Hedy Bryant, CPF shared learnings from her thesis in ‘Shapeshifting: The body in professional practice when facilitating organisational change’. A role play I did in this session with the inimitable Martin as a reptile proved to be amazingly insightful! And in my last concurrent workshop ‘What Lies Beneath’ with Jennifer Lumsden I gained lots of practical tips for effectively using story telling!
Virtual technology enabled us to have a thought provoking plenary session with Roger Schwarz ‘Helping our Clients get Better Results: Challenging our assumptions about facilitation’. And another plenary session ‘What Time is it Where You Are?’ facilitated by Martin Farrell enabled us to reflect on what we had got from conference and translate this into meaningful personal actions and commitments.
It wasn’t all work! The Conference dinner was a heap of fun. The food was delicious and the band couldn’t have been better. I finished the night exhausted from all the dancing, particularly with that highly energetic Martin! And it was lovely after the conference closed to relax over a wine with a few facilitator colleagues 🙂
All in all a very professionally and personally satisfying few days. The only downside being that I didn’t get any opportunity to explore Melbourne again!