Bringing Beauty into Workshops – with Eike Niclas Schmidt
Beauty is all around us and it has never felt more important to take the time to appreciate it and cultivate it wherever we can.
We are used to finding beauty in feelings, sights, and spaces, but what about in our workshops?
Eike Niclas Schmidt will tell you with certainty that we can make workshops beautiful. Not only that, but that it is an important part of our role as facilitators to introduce beauty into the spaces in which we work.
Myriam invited Eike onto the Workshops Work podcast to talk about how we might bring beauty into our workshops, and why it is important for us to do so. What follows are just some of the highlights from a beautiful episode.
Creating beautiful spaces
How we create beautiful spaces depends on what beauty means to us and where we find it in our lives.
Eike put it perfectly when he described beauty as being “not an attribute… [but] something that is everywhere.”
For Eike, he recalls with great fondness his mother setting the table on Christmas Day – carefully laying the table, folding napkins, lighting candles, preparing delicious food with care and attention. “When the people arrived, everyone could feel it’s a special atmosphere… That’s where I learned a lot about what it means to help and prepare a space so that people feel welcome.”
So, creating a beautiful space in Eike’s workshops means paying attention to the space and “bringing some care into it.” This is achievable with workshops of all sizes, durations, and scales.
“Just sit in [the space] and feel a little bit,” prompted Eike. You might realise that a chair is in the wrong position or a picture on the wall creates a strange atmosphere. Small changes make a big difference to a space.
The space returns the beauty you put into it
When Eike talked about the complex relationship between the space, the facilitator, the group, care, and beauty, Myriam lit up. “It makes total sense – it is beautifully coherent.”
Eike added that “the more you care about the physical space that you’re in, the more the space will take care of you and the group.”
And this is important to flag up – the physical space is as much a part of the workshop experience as the participants or the facilitator. You may remember, Myriam spoke with Eoin Cannon on a previous episode of Workshops Work in which he referenced having to facilitate workshops in windowless rooms and corridors! Despite this, Eoin was still able to create positive outcomes and outputs from those workshops.
I don’t doubt that this was partly down to the beauty he brought to those spaces.
After all, the workshop space itself is a container, contributing to the feeling and progress of the group and facilitator. “If I put some love in the space”, smiled Eike, “if there is a spot on the window and I clean it… the space is giving that back to me in a way that helps the participants to have a good session and hold each other in their learning.”
Eike’s words on beauty are, in themselves, things of beauty.
Can we facilitate beauty?
A difficult question, certainly, but an important one that every facilitator would do well to ask.
Eike was unsure whether we can truly facilitate beauty, but rather that “it’s a lot about creating a space for beauty to be there.”
He referenced the need to leave space for the participants and the work – not looking at the clock and putting pressure on outputs and ideas.
Beauty “is like a very silent friend sitting in the corner – a very introverted person – and you have to be silent enough to let this person speak.”
Of course, this draws parallels with visual facilitator Sunny BenBelkacem’s interview on Workshops Work, in which she called the chart “the silent facilitator”.
Great, beautiful workshops clearly require the time and space for silence.
Should we prioritise beautiful spaces or beautiful outputs?
Recording and presenting the outputs of a workshop is vital if we want change to be long-lasting and spread to more people than just those who were in the room.
Eike, however, believes that creating a beautiful space is more important than beautiful outputs – even if his preference is to try and do both!
“I know people who do just a little flip chart and it’s still a great workshop.”
Instilling beauty in your recorded outputs is not necessary to create meaningful outcomes, but care and attention are welcome and valuable in all areas of our work.
While it may not be his priority, Eike still likes to inject small footprints and dustings of beauty wherever he can in the tangible outputs and materials involved in his workshops. This can come down to adding drawings and codes next to the written seminar plan that participants receive.
Small acts like this “make the space that we create not normal – not like normal meetings”. And that abnormality is important to Eike, who thinks “the further away we come from the normal structure we are used to, the better it is.”
Small moments of beauty can have a huge impact on your workshops.
How will you make your next workshop beautiful?
Whether you clean a window, put flowers on the table, or go further and express your true creative spirit, any bit of beauty you can introduce to your workshop will benefit the space, the participants, and you as a facilitator.
Eike has so much more to say on the topic of beauty, facilitation, and workshops. It would be worth anyone’s time to listen to the full episode of Workshops Work.
Thank you for showing up and reading. Thank you for being. Please continue!
You can listen to the show on your favourite podcast player, by searching for “Workshops Work” or stream the episodes on www.workshops.work.
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