Reflections on ‘Transforming Conflict 101’ (Newtown, 15 May 2018)

A few weeks ago,  I gave a free lecture at Newtown Community Centre called ‘Transforming Conflict 101’. The session was part of NCC’s ‘Lecture Series’ and benefited from the wonderful support and publicity skills of the team at NCC. I want to expressly thank Eryn Gribble and Renee Rushton (the NCC co-ordinators) for supporting me to put on the event.

In this post, I’ll share a few thoughts on how the workshop went:

  • what went well
  • what could’ve gone better, and
  • what I’ll do differently next time.

What went well?

There was a really great turnout – between 65 and 70 people attended – so I guess the marketing and partnership with Newtown Community and Cultural Centre worked well! Almost everyone stayed for the whole two-hour workshop, and there were some very engaged questions from the audience at the end of the workshop. My favourite piece of feedback was from the several people who said they enjoyed my stories (made up examples) of conflicts, found them to be useful learning tools, and would’ve liked to hear more.

Tim presenting to crowd. Around 65 people in audience.
Tim presenting to crowd. Around 65 people in audience.

I kept on schedule and made it through all the material I’d prepared. My presentation didn’t feel too rushed, and I could feel the audience’s engagement with the material. Several attendees said they found the different models helpful, in particular the ’17 Principles’ from Dana Caspersen, and Bush and Folger’s model of the conflict interaction. One person said they loved how I’d ‘effectively summarised an entire academic field in an hour and a half’.

The environment worked well – the auditorium is a great space. The food was delicious too!

What could’ve gone better?

Plenty of things! The main areas for improvement were a) too much information, b) the messaging around the content of the event, and c) not enough time for discussion.

I definitely could have simplified the presentation and made it easier to digest. For example, I had several contrasting definitions of conflict, and three different theoretical models – this was too much for some people. One person said they felt I could have taken out about 60% of the content! I wouldn’t go that far, but I’d say somewhere between a third and half of the content could have been more productively replaced with discussions.

A few attendees commented that they had expected the session to be more practical. Reading the description of the event, I can understand how it could’ve led them to have that expectation (particularly the use of the word ‘skills’). I effectively delivered a mostly academic lecture, whereas the audience appears to have been expecting (or hoping for) more of a practical workshop.

This also relates to the third takeaway – about not leaving enough time for discussion. Although I got through the content, I left only a few short gaps for discussion. I should’ve sacrificed some content for longer breaks. I also intentionally created safety boundaries for participants about how they should be considerate when discussing their own conflicts with others in the group.

An important structural thing to mention is around sound. The venue doesn’t have a PA system, and can be quite echoey. Several attendees commented that it was hard to hear me at times.

What I’ll do differently next time

On the whole, I’m really pleased with how the talk went. I’ve since had a few organisations and individuals contact me about training and presentations, and I’m holding a second talk in a few weeks (information at the start of the post). I’ve also been asked to present a similar talk to a team of scrum masters at a large organisation in a few months – very exciting!

Of course, there are lots of things I’ll improve before the next presentation. Some of these include:

  • Cutting down on the quotes and instead talking to the theory, including sharing more stories and examples of conflicts
  • Simplying the theoretical side of things, including taking out the multiple definitions of conflict, and instead focusing on the transformative perspective on conflict
  • Focusing on the difference between conflict resolution and conflict transformation
  • Allowing much more time for discussion and reflection
  • Using a PA system (or some kind of amplification) to ensure everyone could hear
  • Less content on the slides – more content in the hand-out

What does this bring up for you? Did you come to the talk, or have you attended similar talks? What ideas or thoughts have I not considered? I’d love to have your feedback. You can email me directly (tim@reframe.nz) or leave a comment.

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