What Do the Acoustics in an Ancient Greek Theater Have to Do With Your Workshops?

On a recent vacation in Greece, I visited the outdoor theater at Epidavros. It’s a designated UNESCO world heritage site built in the fourth century BC and still in use today.

The acoustics in this circular auditorium are so excellent that no theater in the world has been able to duplicate their quality – and even if you’re sitting in the row farthest from the stage (at over 196 feet or 60 meters), you’re able to hear what’s going on without any amplification.

I wanted to test the acoustics, so I climbed half way up the “bleachers”. Unexpectedly, that’s where my workshop leader’s mind kicked in.

Tour Guides in ActionTheater at Epidavros, Greece

In my training sessions and coaching, I use the analogy that as workshop leaders, we’re very much like tour guides leading our groups to a learning destination. During the few minutes I was sitting in that theater in Greece, I had the opportunity to watch 3 tour guides in action on the stage.

Tour guide #1 (leading the group I was with) stood at the center of the stage and shared statistics about the theater. She had a piece of paper in her hand which she proceeded to rip in half – as a way of demonstrating the excellent acoustics. That was the end of her presentation.

Tour guide #2 stood in the center of the stage and began clapping. She then started walking around the periphery of the stage continuing to clap. She instructed her group to listen for the differences in the acoustics as she moved from place to place on the stage.

It was obvious to me that tour guide #3 was a master at group engagement. She asked her entire group to stand in a circle around the outside of the stage. She had them all clapping, moving into the center of the stage, bending down in the center of the stage, and then moving out again – all the while listening for the differences in sound. While it’s true that these tourists weren’t sitting in the theater seats experiencing the acoustics from there, they were very much engaged in the learning experience. Afterward, they had the opportunity to climb up through the rows of seats and listen to sounds coming from others standing on the stage.

To be honest, I was envious of tour group #3. Their guide engaged them, had them working together as a team, and made the experience fun. Talk about “sticky” learning!

So, what’s my point? I don’t remember all the statistics my tour guide spouted. If I really wanted or needed the information, I could have read it in the brochure that was handed to me at the entrance gate.

As cruel as this may sound, if all you’re doing is hosing down your participants with information, they don’t need you. They can find the information somewhere else. They need you to help them learn – to process, understand, engage with, and implement the information.

What are you doing to help your workshop participants learn? Check out Rock the Room Activities for my favorite interactive activities.

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