In April I presented a workshop at London BiFest. I wanted to share my notes on here so that anyone who is thinking about running a session at an event can use this as a resource or a place to get ideas.
The first thing I did was write an outline for the session guide which had to be submitted in advance. You can see the guide from London BiFest 2017 here, but for convenience I’ve copied mine below.
“14:30 – 15:30 Session 2A: Coming Out
Facilitator: Hannah Bee.
A facilitated group discussion on everything to do with coming out.
Do you let other people know about your sexuality? Why, why not? Should you? Is it safe to? What are the pros and cons of each option? In addition to the above we will also look at the bi specific issues surrounding coming out (or being unable to), swap tips, and share our own experiences.”
For a discussion based workshop there isn’t really a lot preparation involved which makes this the ideal format for the time strapped individual. The day before BiFest I wrote out some notes and mentally planned how I would arrange the room. (Chairs in a circle or horseshoe shape.)
On the day I packed some whiteboard markers, blue tak, and spare paper as you never know when these items might run out or go missing!
My outline looked like this:
- Explain how the workshop will run: I’ll lead a guided discussion
- Explain the ground rules. E.g. no interrupting, respect everyone’s opinions and experiences, give everyone a chance to speak. Ask the room if they want to add anything?
- Explain that I would like people to use three ‘discussion gestures’. A raised hand means someone would like to say something. Holding both hands in front of you in a fist with the index fingers raised and wiggling means you have something to add, but it relates to what has just been said so you need to speak next. Turning hands back and forth (a bit like Beyonce’s putting a ring on it) is sign language for applause and allows people to express agreement and/or solidarity without interrupting.
- Do a show of hands asking who’s mostly/completely out, somewhat out, or barely/not at all out. (This allows me to tailor the workshop to who has come that day.)
- Work through questions on flipchart (see below).
- End on sharing coming out tips/positive stories.
- Wrap up. Thank everyone for coming. Let people know that if the workshop has had an emotional impact, I am available outside if anyone wants to talk more. Encourage people to get a drink and a snack. Give out contact details. Promote any events I’m doing in future (in this case The Big Bi Fun Day).
Before the workshop started I wrote a list of questions on the flipchart. I find this works very well for discussion based workshops as it helps people settle in and reduces feelings of anxiety or awkwardness. This is because it shows people what to expect and gives them time to think of things to say. It also gives them something to do whilst they wait, plus people can break the ice by talking about it if they want to.
It’s also a lifeline for me, as it saves me from painful silence when I throw a question to the room and no one replies!
What I wrote on the flipchart:
Things to think about whilst waiting:
- Are you out?
- Why/Why not?
- If you’ve come out to someone, what kin of reactions have they had?
- How do you deal with coming out (or correcting) over and over again?
- How do you deal with negative reactions?
(Both emotionally and in dealing with the other person.)
- What advice would you give others?
I had expected about 10-15 people to attend so was rather surprised to find 24 faces sitting and looking at me. This made me worry that some wouldn’t get a chance to speak and that the layout wouldn’t work as instead of 1 circle we had a 2 row horseshoe to fit everyone in. Thankfully the gestures made the workshop flow perfectly. And when someone gave visual applause out of eyesight of the person speaking I just mentioned it to them which got around the layout problem.
After the workshop I said I would post the coming out advice people gave on this blog. You can find this in a separate post here. Sorry it’s so late!