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Workshop Facilitation Through The Lens Of Photography – with Markus Püttmann

Workshop Facilitation Through The Lens Of Photography - with Markus Püttmann

Facilitation looks different from person to person, but have you considered how you might bring your unique interests and abilities into a workshop to benefit the room?

We can think so much about how participants impact the flow of our workshops, and perhaps rightly – we are there to facilitate their progress, not dictate it – but there are ways we, as facilitators, can create a stronger, safer, more explorative space for them.

Markus Püttmann does this by integrating his passion and skill as a photographer into his workshops.

Markus spoke to Myriam about the ways his two lines of work influence each other, the positives and negatives of integrative approaches to facilitation, and his secrets to helping participants open up.


How do photography and facilitation integrate?

Firstly, Markus pointed to his experience as a wedding photographer. “In the moment you say yes to your husband or wife, it’s unconditional… I know how it feels and looks to say, unconditionally, yes. And if I have this same feeling in a team coaching process, I know we’re in the right place.”

Myriam enquired as to whether unspoken communication in such a setting, such as tensions and secrets, play out. Reflecting on this, Markus shared the insight that: “I solve two problems in a shoot – the lighting and the social.”

With workshops, whilst lighting is generally sorted by the venue, the social issues are just as prevalent – and they remain Markus’ job to work through.

“The feedback that I get from weddings is that I supported their ceremony and day with the way I am as a person.” The reverse of this is that a photographer can completely destroy a wedding – “if they are the wrong person in the way they talk or act with people.”

Every intervention in a wedding runs the risk of damaging the event – even down to the way you are dressed.

“The way I act and interlink each person with each other”, said Markus, “giving information from one side to the other side… I have a big influence on the wedding.”


How does facilitation influence photography?

Markus sees a great deal of facilitation and coaching creeping into his work as a portrait photographer.

Portrait photography isn’t just about taking a picture that makes someone look good – it needs to capture their hopes, ambitions, and personality.

Markus explained to Myriam that, if he were to photograph her, he would be looking to understand: ‘Who are you? What do you want to see and feel when you see your pictures? What should your customers see and feel when they see the pictures? What specifics of your personality do you want to show with the picture? And what’s your specific style as a facilitator that no one else can present like you? Because there are so many facilitators and coaches out there, but who are you?’

“So”, Markus noted confidently, “this is why, when I take pictures, it’s a coaching process.”


How to integrate photography into a workshop

Having explained the ways photography and facilitation can interplay, it was time to understand how exactly Markus integrates photography into his workshops.

As a group is discussing a question or concept, Markus will – using all the tact he has learned from photography – capture moments of the discussion. He does so indiscriminately and without trying to steer the discussion in any way. Once the photographs are captured, he will share them with the group.

Markus was keen to stress that the process is not about sharing a picture just to point at it to explain that “these two are sat with this body language, so they don’t understand each other, or they have a problem.” Prescriptivism has no place in Markus’ workshops – “I want to get away from the concrete picture.”

Instead, Markus would use an image in which people display some kind of distance from each other and ask: “what is it that you can see and where else can you see this in the way we work with each other?”

What people see is not actually that important in this scenario. “Whether they are right or wrong is not what I am asking.” What matters more to Markus is that people can explain that they see something – anything ­– in that picture that resonates with their experience in the organisation.

Workshop Facilitation Through The Lens Of Photography - with Markus Püttmann


What skills or interests could you integrate into your workshops?

I hope that you can see from Myriam and Markus’ conversation that the opportunity to integrate other skills and formulae into your workshops can be hugely productive.

Not everything will work and it is vital to stress that you should not just throw a trumpet lesson or rock-climbing experience into your next workshop! With planning, consideration, and trialling different concepts in safe spaces with clear communication, you may be able to find the right way to integrate another skill or interest into your workshops.

Whether this appeals to you or not – for some, this may be like hearing nails on a chalkboard! – the ideas shared in Markus and Myriam’s discussion are wide-ranging and are likely to spark a great deal of reflection for any facilitator.

If you would like to hear the episode of Workshops Work from which this conversation was taken, you can listen to the show on your favourite podcast player, searching for “Workshops Work”, or stream the episodes here


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