Yesterday’s drumming event was a great example of connecting business messages to our activities, without patronising our conference audience. I have yet to see another corporate activity like drumming (and trust me, I’m looking) that lets the participants see, hear and feel the analogy with countless different company themes.
We spent the morning silently preparing the drums just outside the fire exit of the conference room. We had a 15-minute window to turn the seating around, bring in 160 drums, sound check and bang! We were off just as the delegates returned to their totally-transformed plenary room. That’s easy – we do it all the time. I knew they were going to be a fantastic audience as they entered the room and sat down, because almost everyone joined in as we played a welcome performance.
Our delegates were from one of the world’s largest banks and the theme of the conference was “little things can have a huge impact”. This was a perfect topic for us to work with, as almost all of our drumming workshops are based on the impact that participants create around them, be it volume, eye contact, timing, posture, intention, drumming or listening. The list is endless.
People are smart and you normally have to point them only gently in the direction of a metaphor for them to discover it, rather than hitting them over the head with it. I would like to think that this is an area we excel in – being able to make our workshops relevant to any business situation.
Taking yesterday’s “little things can have a huge impact” as an example.
From the initial ice breaker we looked at how different energy levels raised the bar and expectation of the session. This was achieved with a simple clapping exercise and demonstrated that the level of commitment an audience comes in with has a dramatic influence on subsequent activities.
While learning about playing the different tones on the drums, we gave different examples of commitment and focus and how this impacts on the quality of total group output. By not achieving, or at least attempting, to access these distinct tones on the instrument, we can show that we lose almost 50% of the potential sound quality and that this can demotivate participants.
As individuals learned to play their drum parts as one group, we highlighted the need for simple eye contact. As people learn, we find that they tend to look down at their drums in an effort to remember what to play. If they look up and connect with the people around them, they soon make their part cohesive.
As part of a trust exercise within our finale, ten volunteers had the very powerful experience we call our ‘perception shift’. By altering their environment just slightly, they each perceived the rest of the group in a totally unique and revealing way. We positioned our volunteers in the middle of the rest of the group and asked them to close their eyes, whilst we led the players into a ‘soundscape’, which increased and decreased in intensity. When we eventually stopped and asked the volunteers for their feedback, most of them could not believe that we hadn’t used a CD, because of the intensity of the sound and the physical effect of the drum frequencies around them.
These small points had a cumulative effect on the group’s overall performance. They are just some of the ways we tied yesterday’s company messages into what is essentially a fun and inclusive drumming activity.
The skill of the facilitator was critical in this, because all of these messages had to be communicated subtly, honestly and without disrupting the flow of the session. I believe that the integrity, delivery and intention of of our facilitators is ultimately what the audience buys into. It makes for a more rewarding challenge for us and adds much more value to the client.
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