I’ll tell you a secret about facilitating: it’s scary.

I throw an activity out to the group with an idea in my mind of what I hope it will spark — a direction I hope it will lead us toward, insights I hope it will tickle…

But until it’s under way, I never really know what’s going to happen.

Even with an activity I’ve done before to great effect — I never know how the group I’m working with today is going to respond.

I have a hypothesis. But that’s it.

The rest is improv.

I’m like a surfer, riding the waves, doing my best to stay vertical. 🏄‍♀️

And here’s another (not-so secret) secret: connection requires making ourselves vulnerable. 

What this means is that the activities that, time after time, have the most positive response from participants are often the ones that I’m the most anxious about.

Because I know the payoff will be great, but I don’t know if people will be willing to invest in order to get there.

Take my Learning Lab last November, for example, where I shared an activity I learned from Robin Fox when she was a guest on my LinkedIn Live show, Virtually Inspired.

The activity is called “I’ll Take Your Fear,” and it goes like this:

1. Anyone who wants to, shares a fear with the group. Jane, for example, might raise her hand and say she has a fear of spiders.

2. Then anyone who does not have that same fear raises their hand. So in this case, all the people in the group who are not scared of spiders raise their hands.

3. Now the person with the fear calls on one of those people, and physically hands their fear to that person. In this case, Jane calls on Josiah, and holds her hands out to pass her fear of spiders to him.

4. At this point, the person says “I’ll take your fear,” and mimes physically taking the fear away, and then decides what they want to do with it, using their imagination. Josiah can throw it away, or pet the spider, or anything he wants — completely up to him!

I’d led “I’ll Take Your Fear” at my creativity retreat, and participants loved it, but that was in-person, with a group of artists who’ve known each other for years.

How would this activity work with a group of strangers in a more businesslike setting? I wasn’t sure.

I warmed the group up with other activities before we played “I’ll Take Your Fear,” and when we got to this activity I took care to set it up so the level of vulnerability was self-determined:

  • Nobody had to share a fear
  • Anyone who did share a fear got to decide what they shared (“fear of spiders,” “fear of not being good enough,” “fear of loss,” “fear of never achieving my goals,” etc.)

Nobody was forced to expose more than they felt comfortable with.

Still, did people want to share fears at all?

Turns out, yes!

Although I had fears that people would hate the activity, roll their eyes, maybe leave the meeting entirely, it proved to be the most popular exercise of the entire workshop.

Which shouldn’t be at all surprising, because, as I said above, connection requires making ourselves vulnerable. 

And when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable (in a psychologically safe space), we create fertile ground for connection to happen.

The feeling of connection after “I’ll Take Your Fear” was deep and powerful.

So yes, facilitation can be scary, but when you can lean into the fear, and use it to help participants be more vulnerable in a safe way, everyone thrives.


Interested to learn more? Message me to chat about how I can use my signature system to help your employees infuse connection, joy and delight into virtual meetings, trainings and events at your workplace.

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