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Welcome to Facilitation Stories, where we discover how facilitators ended up in the profession, and how facilitation methods, principles and techniques are used more widely. Brought to you by IAF England and Wales. For more information on our chapter, click here.

Aug 9, 2022

In today’s episode, Pilar talks to Myriam Hadnes, facilitator and host of the Workshops Work podcast and founder of the Never Done Before festival. 

Myriam first realised she was a facilitator after she read Priay Parker’s "The Art of Gathering". Her perception of facilitation has broadened since then: she now thinks more of having the mindset of a facilitator as she’s doing less and less pure facilitation, and more training and nurturing of facilitators.

Maybe it’s more a question of identity and how you do what you do eg in a conversation, being present, listening, making sure the other person is heard etc.

Myriam has created a home for facilitators. The Never Done Before festival grew out of a feeling that there was nothing new in the events that Myriam attended. In 2020, Myriam set up the festival, online, with the only “rule” that those leading sessions had to do something they hadn’t done before. She invited previous podcast guests to run sessions.

The festival went on for 24 hours and everything that could go wrong, went wrong!

However, there’s a beauty about creating a space for a group into a session that might fail, because it’s never done before. It creates a strong sense of connection.  (And there was even some impromptu singing at some point, sparked by some things going wrong…)

There was even an “afterglow”, later in the year when some of the facilitators repeated their sessions.

A participant suggested an “advent calendar” type event to follow up the festival. Everyone who had run a workshop could run the session again under the label “Done only once before”. The ongoing experience of meeting every day brought people even closer together.

Two years on, the community is becoming stronger and doesn’t need Myriam to curate and do everything for them, but provide the ecosystem and “give permission”. They have just run The Testival, a testing festival, 100% co-created by the community. 

For the next Never Been Done Before festival, it will be the community that organises the event, which feels strange to Myriam. She’s going through similar stages to giving birth and bringing up children, and it’s an emotional process. To hold a space safe enough for everyone to take risks and show unpolished work to other facilitators is Myriam’s main role now.

They’re now in the process of thinking about who else can join in, at the same time as protecting the community. Inclusivity (eg global) while being exclusive (eg it’s a paid community) is a difficult balance to strike. One of the ways in which they’re addressing this is through adjusting the price to purchasing power, so the price varies depending on where you are in the world. 

The community also has a mentorship programme. They have adapted the Hero’s Journey as a development programme for new facilitators, and it ends with mentees running a session in the festival. The next intake is in September 2022.

They have two homes online: one for asynchronous communication, and they also have a community garden on Welo This space is open all the time, for people to hop in, meet others, and even run their own sessions. 

Creating the habit for people to use this space has been interesting. First they called it a co-working space, but very few people would drop in. It finally kicked off when they started to schedule sessions there, and rename it to and design it as a “community garden”.

Myriam realised that the facilitator community shares everything, except their fees. She also noticed that many struggle to price their services. She hosted a mastermind session for the NDB community and realised how good it felt to have an open conversation about money. Someone suggested carrying out a survey - mainly whether there was a difference between what people charged online vs in person. 

The results: at the beginning of the pandemic, many clients expected online events to be cheaper than in person, or even free - now this has changed, and the rates are more or less the same (sometimes online is more expensive). Geographically, the rates in the US are higher than everywhere else. 

Now that the world has woken up to the power of facilitation, and understands the value of a well facilitated workshops, the overall rates seem to have gone up. Value is a much better parameter to cost around than hours. 

Myriam believes you can actually go deeper when you run sessions in the online world, because breakout rooms are truly private spaces, rather than the group work done in person, where many groups still share the same physical space in practice.

As facilitators, we need a mindset shift: clients don’t want a “workshop”, they want specific outputs. (And will these be achieved with one workshop?) 

Myriam hosts a show called “Workshops Work”, and she’s now past the 170 episodes.

If you would like to guest on Myriam’s show, she is now looking for “the edges”, what is a different angle on workshops? What have workshop leaders learned from their career before running workshops, that they bring to the work?

Myriam holds a chemistry call with potential guests, where she assesses whether she and the person “click”, and whether there is enough “flesh” - the moment Myriam gets curious and the questions start coming to her, that’s where the chemistry call ends, and the recording date is set.

(And if you want to find out more about Myriam as a podcaster, check out this conversation in Adventures in Podcasting: )


The next Never Been Done Before festival will run on 18 Nov 2022.