First-time facilitator: what to expect? 5 things I learned at my first meetup

Last night, I had a sudden thought of writing this article after thinking about *the day* that happened two weeks ago. Of course, I’m referring to the meetup I held with two of my colleagues, Andrei and Lucian, at TechHub Bucharest for the TeamSTAR competition. You can read more about it here and, as I said in the article, that was my first time as a facilitator EVER. Like, ever, ever. So, I thought of making a list of aaaaaall the mistakes I did. I definitely do not want to repeat them next time and maybe you, baby-facilitator, will be protected by these evil endeavours with the help of this article! Firstly:

1. Don’t panic (like I did)

This is the beginning of everything and that’s why I added it as a first advice. I know it’s a lot of pressure and, especially if you’re new in the field, you might think “What could they learn from me that they don’t already know?” Well, guess what, *they* are coming to *your* presentation. *They* are interested in what *you* are going to talk about. They aren’t there because they didn’t have any other plans that night (I’m sure that a beer out sounds more interesting than going to a meetup that doesn’t interest you). They are there because they thought your presentation is interesting and really wanted to hear what you are about to say. So, do not be afraid and do not doubt yourself, you’re there to teach people something and certainly learn something back. You had the courage to say “yes” and hold that presentation, so why worry? If you’re panicky and all, whatever you do…

2. Don’t rush (like I did)

You’re in front of everyone, every pair of eyes is directed towards you and then you start talking. And talking. And talking. You relax after some phrases, but in your mind there’s some subliminal thought that makes you continuously push the presentation button and go through the slides like knife through butter.

I guess that’s a normal behaviour and it means that you really want to be over with, but you need to apply the #1 principle here. Take a deep breath and set your mind on the fact that all the people in front of you know how it is to be nervous and they understand. Just relax, don’t be afraid, but remember that before the meetup you will have to…

3. Prepare your presentation (a lot)

If you’re really anxious about it, you could prepare your presentation in Powerpoint, on a white A3 paper, on sticky notes or even bring props. I usually present in my room in front of my walls for a few times in a row, each totally different than the other, and ideas just keep popping in my head. “What if I add a note here?” “What if I add another slide with an actual thing that happened to me regarding the subject?” I always do this whenever I have to talk in front of people because I want to be sure when and what type of jokes I want to bring in. That’s just that way *I* like to present and I always feel a bit more grounded this way. Take note, though, that however much you think you’re getting ready, you should always…

4. Await uncertainties

You miss the bus. Someone spills coffee on your shirt. There aren’t as many people at the meetup as you expected to (There *never* are, just so you know). You lose your voice a day before because you’ve been at a concert and screamed the whole time (Okay, I don’t know what advice to give you. Raw egg and honey?) You get the idea. There’s always the unexpected, there’s always something that doesn’t work as you thought it did. Firstly, look at #1 from this list and then get creative: ask someone for help, improvise something, put that thing aside for good. Take a taxi and announce someone that you’ll be late. Buy another shirt from the first store you see. Present to those few people that came, don’t be discouraged. Make a joke about not being able to talk, use a mic and drink something hot whenever you feel your neck is dying. Panicking is natural and everyone might feel this, but that shouldn’t bring you down. And now the worst part comes *looks at introverts*…

5. Be friendly and talk to everyone

This is a killer, I know. I’m also guilty of not doing this. My case was also the fact that I knew most of the people and I was extremely nervous, but that was no excuse and I understood this retrospectively. As a facilitator, your job is to welcome everyone and thank them for coming because that’s how you’ll make your participants feel closer. I made a form after the meetup took place and one person thought it was “so-and-so” and his/her opinion was that the atmosphere should have been improved. I didn’t get more details, but I think that me not being closer to the people there and not mingling with them, they felt me distant from the start. People just feel this. I know it’s hard and you would just want to stand there, present and then go home, but you invited those people there, you made the schedule and you’re the one presenting. It’s your task to make them feel close to you. It might not be perfect the first time, but just try and you’ll see that there are so many friendly people out there, that you’ll ask yourself “How could I ever think otherwise?”

Conclusion

As I said, these are just the things that I noticed at my meetup, but there surely might be others. I don’t know. All I do know is that, by accepting to hold a meetup, you did what many wouldn’t even dare to do. You brought yourself in front of people and you learned a whole lot just by doing that, so do it again and again every chance you get. You’ll get better!

Test on,

A. Testophiliac

first-time-facilitator