While there are ways to work with most venues, a bad venue can have a profound impact on group dynamics and even a skilled facilitator will struggle to overcome it. So take time checking out venues to find a good venue or at least one you can modify.
Most importantly, a good venue suits the size of audience with 4-6 participants grouped around tables (see photo ). Tables that are too small or large will not work as well, as they discourage groups working together. You want to avoid an oversized space such as a recreation hall as energy will be lost, and a space that is too small will make people feel crowded and uncomfortable. Do not use a venue if there is a lecture style layout with permanent seats in rows.
Look for a venue with tables and chairs available, plus a refreshments area including urn, cups etc, space for a resources table and welcome desk.
Other helpful features:
- Acoustics are good for the unamplified voice, without the hum of fridges or hard reflective surfaces blurring your voice.
- The venue is in walking distance for some of the residents of interest.
- The venue is associated with the community in some way or viewed as a community-friendly place and not principally a place of professional education.
- Easy access to tables and chairs otherwise the setup and packdown can be hard work for the facilitator(s).
- Colour helps add life to a venue but you can play with this.
- A building that is easy to find or that you can explain easily or signpost.
The building doesn’t need to be new, modern or of a sustainable design, though the latter helps.
- using colour table cloths to brighten up a dull, cold space.
- a sprig or two of a native flower or green bush will make each table seem more appealing.
- coloured pencil cases on each table with textas, pens, paper, stick it notes etc
- for a large room, see if you can block off a section, maybe using pin up boards or tables. Put books and other objects on these tables, rather than trying to take up the entire room
- for a small room put the enrolment table and resource table outside or where people will be having their break.
- lay out the tables in the configuration you want, but then get people who arrive early to help you by putting out chairs. Always ask for help packing up at the end of the session. People enjoy helping if you ask them as it encourages a sense of responsibility for the group
This link is to a Sustainable Venues Guide for WA – you may find it useful