After more than three years writing full-time a very good friend asked me to help her run a client workshop with over 120 people in attendance, so last week was a topsy turvy one with conference calls, prep work and a day-long client facilitation event. Phrases like consensus building, communication strategy, stakeholder engagement, business model, goals and principles, and governance structure filled my head. Just like exam preparation, I studied the players involved, made notes on their issues, checked facts and figures and then reminded myself of effective facilitation techniques.
Thursday night I readied my briefcase (!!) and set the alarm for 5:45. Friday morning I was downtown by 7 and with coffee in hand organized flip charts, chairs, coloured markers and posted a page reminding participants of proper etiquette like turning off cell phones, respecting diverse viewpoints, and allowing others to be heard. As people filtered in, the chatter built like gathering thunder until just before 9 when I could hardly hear myself think. My friend approached the podium, my stomach tightened. Showtime.
Surging energy. A whirl of faces. The sharp smell of marker pen. Pages and pages of flip charts. Spilled coffee. Smiles and frowns. Slumped shoulders. Arms akimbo. Aching feet. Then before I knew it, we were done.
I used to do this kind of work for a living. And now I write historical fiction. The contrast could not be greater.