In my facilitation work, I am always mindful about creating spaces in which participants feel taken care of. Over time, I have noticed patterns that I feel can be applied to any meeting, from community halls to boardrooms.
No matter the context, there are things that you can do to minimize unhelpful or excess stimulation, calm the nervous system and encourage creativity and connection. Here are some ideas to consider for your next meeting:
Are you providing food for the event? Are the foods being brought into the space nourishing? Do they contain protein? What is the burn rate of those foods; how quickly do they convert to sugars in the body, resulting in an energetic crash?
When I am facilitating an event, I like to provide high-quality vegetables – especially carrot sticks – the tastiest kind from the Farmer’s Market, along with hummus which is high in protein. If budget permits, I’ll buy or make some nice crackers and get a selection of cheeses. Additionally, I offer whole fresh fruit – when eaten fresh and unblended, apples have a slower burn rate in the body. Sometimes, I like to bring tea that contains Tulsi, which is a gently stimulating nervine that isn’t as potent as caffeine. For those who enjoy coffee, I like to create a blend that is half-caffeinated. In some cases when stress levels may be high, I bring candles and high-quality essential oils (if no one has scent allergies). There is something about beeswax candlelight that calms people down and certain essential oils like lavender actually lower cortisol levels.
Caring for Beauty and Art.
What is in the space that brings aliveness? Can you bring in plants or pick wildflowers to make centrepieces on each table? Are there real plates and serving boards at the location, or would you bring some along? Are there real cloth napkins? It’s surprising how a cloth napkin can change the way people tend to their food and the room in general – they care for the food they pick up, and they care where they set it down. It even has an effect on the way they have conversations at the table they’re sitting at. I find it’s best to use very simple cloth napkins, not fancy white linen ones – simple suggests a “country home” feel, while white ones remind people of fancy dinners.
Simple tactile things that remind people of being at home add an extra level of care. These are some of the things that I try to do in any space that I’m facilitating, particularly those that relate to food and nourishment. In terms of hosting, I do things like bodywork – collecting natural items from outside to bring in, or taking the group outdoors for a walk or to the garden to harvest something as we connect with each other.
Make Allowances for Virtual Spaces.
If you’re facilitating an online event, whether participants are local or not, sending them a special tea and a small candle ahead of time, to be enjoyed during the event, is a simple way to ensure that everyone has a shared experience. This is an excellent opportunity to offer a deeper level of connection in an online space.
What kinds of things help you feel more comfortable in a meeting space?