Video and transcript from Solomon Masala’s talk at Austin’s 3rd Annual Facilitator Summit, Control the Room

Recently, we hosted our annual facilitator summit alongside our sponsor MURAL, but this time, it was virtual. Instead of gathering in Austin’s Capital Factory, 172 eager learners, expert facilitators, and meeting practitioners gathered online for a 3-day interactive workshop. Our mission each year at Control the Room is to share a global perspective of facilitators from different methodologies, backgrounds, races, genders, sexual orientations, cultures, and ages. We gather to network, learn from one another, and build our facilitation toolkits. 

This year’s summit theme was CONNECTION. Human connection is an integral component of the work we do as facilitators.

When we connect things become possible. When we are disconnected there is dysfunction. When ideas connect they become solutions. When movements connect they become revolutions. 

Control the Room is a safe space to build and celebrate a community of practice for facilitators, which is paramount to learn, grow, and advance as practitioners and engaging in a dialogue that advances the practice of facilitation. We must learn the tools and modalities needed to foster connection and be successful facilitators in the new virtual landscape. 

“We must establish a personal connection with each other. Connection before content. Without relatedness, no work can occur.” —Peter Block

This year’s summit consisted of 18 expert facilitator guest speakers who presented lightning talks and in-depth workshops, where they shared their methods and activities for effective virtual facilitation. 

One of those speakers was Solomon Masala.

Solomon Masala, creator of the Source Consultng Group, reminded participants that most humans have been conditioned to get in front of a screen and go passive. He said we forget that real learning is an active, full-body experience, and in our virtual learning world it’s critical to keep the learning juices activated. In his workshop, Solomon engaged participants in 25+ kinesthetic activities that range from 1 minute to 1 hour, guaranteed to get participants energized and enlivened, regardless of the group.

Watch Solomon Masala’s talk “Zip In Your Zoom” :

Read the Transcript

Solomon Masala:

And if you don’t know what a Broadie is, I highly, highly recommend that you Google that after this session here. So thank you so much Douglas. Wow. I know that everybody has been having an amazing experience with all the knowledge and wisdom that’s getting dropped here this morning. And I am just grateful to be here to share what I love to share, which I am now coining as Zip in your Zoom. So for me, the experience of facilitation has always meant that it’s an embodied process, right? It’s never just something that comes from my head. We are not brain taxis, we are embodied humans and so for me facilitation needs to engage that process. So let’s talk a little bit about what I mean when I say Zip in Zoom.

 First, I want you to experience it by standing up wherever you are in your space. Make sure you’re not going to move and hit anything close to you or stick your hand through a fan. That’s experiential learning right there. So go ahead and stand up for a moment. We’re going to do something really simple, I promise. Nothing embarrassing plus no one can really see it right now anyway. So first thing I’d like you to do is roll your shoulders up to your ears, hold them there for a moment and roll them backwards. Get those shoulder blades low on the back. Let’s do that one more time. Take a nice satisfying inhale as you do that and exhale, roll them back down. Good. Part of the experience of taking in information in an authentic way, in a way that’s relevant and in a way that’s sustained means that our body, our physicality, our neurological learning system is ready to take in that information.

Let’s do one more thing while you’re standing here real quick. What I’d like you to do is make an O with your left hand and an L with the right hand, right? Let’s get a little brain integration here going. What I’m going to ask you to do is when I say, “Switch,” you’re going to switch them. You’re just going to make an L with the other hand and an O in this hand, all right. Try to make as many switches as you can in the next 15 seconds. Ready to go and keep going. I lose focus. Keep going. It’s not about getting it exactly right, it’s about having the experience of it. Couple more, couple more and speed it up if you can once you get that rhythm of it. Good. Relax it that on and feel free to hop back in your seat if you feel comfortable doing so you’ll notice I’ll be standing for my session, which I’ll be doing for the longer session as well.

So Zip in Zoom, why? Well, what I know from personal experience and observing human beings is that when we get in front of a screen, we have been conditioned to get into this passive pose right here. And so with our body language influencing the rest of the way our neurology feels, it’s important for us to recognize the power of posture. Now for most Zoom scenarios, most folks are just going to get in front of the screen and have an expectation of, “Here’s the screen in front of me this is what I should do.” Zip in your Zoom is about integrating, injecting in whether it’s 30 seconds or a few minutes of something that’s kinesthetic. That gets people up, active and engaged. To some degree can be related directly to the material that you’re doing. To some degree, it might be simply something to get the neurology ready to take in the information and sustain the experience of being from Zoom screen in our virtual world these days.

So, what do we need to remember? The power of movement in actually bringing ourselves standing up from our chairs, engaging even the simple movement that we just did at the beginning of the session and those things that I’ll add and extend on later in the longer session, gives us these benefits, right? So we talk about the cerebellum and the process of moving and learning is literally something that connects the parts of our brain. All the studies show that that movement activation starts to integrate left and right sides of the brain, as well as neurology throughout the brain to say, “Hey, what are we doing here? What are we needing to take in? What do we need to be more present for?”

We also know that any kind of exercise that you do on a regular basis produces more cortical mass. The thickening of the brain in a good way to get that sense of more neurological connections activated. We also know that when you’re moving, you have [inaudible 00:05:05] about it. This is not [inaudible 00:05:07]. When you’re moving, it helps to increase blood flow throughout your body which is a beneficial thing for anything that has to do with taking in information, being present, being engaged. And finally, as you can see here, when people just get up, that’s a 5 to 8% increase in the blood flow, right? We want these kinds of things happening in the body. So we need to be able to integrate movement in this virtual scenario in a way that works for whatever kind of group we’re working with.

A few things to keep in mind to make this work. First of all, I can’t feel, “Well, should I do this? I’m not sure. What are they going to think about it? Is this going to be lame?” If any of those thoughts are going through my mind, more than likely whatever I bring to my group, they’re going to sit there and feel like, “Man, this is kind of stilted. I’m not sure I want to engage in it.” So the first thing is you got to own it, right? This has got to be something that you’re like, “All right, this is going to be an experiment everybody. Join me.” And own that process, and also own the learning process that comes around with it.

As I started off the session, when I invited you to stand up, I said, “Check your space so that you’re not going to put your hand through a bookshelf or through a fan.” When I say experiential learning, when I first started doing these sessions and like, “Oh, I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to get people to stand up and do things.” Right through the fan in the middle of the summertime, right? So make sure this space is safe. The safety also has to do then with the emotional safety of inclusion, because physically not everybody might be able to stand up. So you want to consider activities that if people are still sitting down, they can still engage in the process of what it is that they’re going to be doing while they’re joining you in these kinds of movements.

The next piece that is, when you’re first doing these and you’re getting adjusted to accustomed to actually getting people standing up and doing things, you want to keep it so that you know how to choreograph it, right? When I had us do the L and O activity, my instructions for that were very simple. Make the “L” with the left hand, make the “O” with the right hand translation across virtual scenarios is a little bit trickier that we’re used to, as we know. So you want to make sure that you keep the process as simple as you can, especially when you’re starting off. Then whatever the movement process is that’s happening, you want to keep it interesting. And what I mean by that is don’t overdo it. Feel the energy.

If it starts to shift, if it’s like, “All right, this is getting played out right now and I can see that people are like, ‘Well, this was fun for the first minute, but now I’m starting to feel a little strange.'” Shift, go back to sitting down or bring another activity into the mix. I want to talk a little bit more than about how we engage this as an art. Why movement and why am I talking about engaging it as an art? I often like to say I become the person I practice being. So if I’m going to up my game as a facilitator, if I’m going to create what I like to call a state change, and let me define that for a moment. State change, that means that folks are feeling physiologically emotionally, mentally different. And hopefully in a generative way after my experience than before. When I facilitate, I want to create a state change in awareness and in my physical experience.

So if I’m going to be offering that, I got to live that. I need to know what do I do in my own daily practice so that as a facilitator, I can really have that translate because I’m not just using words, it’s something I practice. So when I say I become who I practice being, I want you to just think about this for a moment. Pause and consider something in your life that you know you’ve gotten better at because you’ve practiced it. So think about that for a moment. I already give an example, one of the things that I love to do is percussion, right? And I play West African and Brazilian percussion, and there’s a drum called the repinique And the repinique is played with the hand and the stick. And there’s a roll that happens. And at the beginning of about two summers ago, I was not really good at being able to do that roll.

So I committed to practicing at least 10 to 15 minutes every day for the summer. I didn’t make it 10 to 15 minutes every day. I probably ended about five days a week for about 10 minutes. And within two months I had the roll down, no problem. So here’s what happens, our brain loves to learn and it imprints that learning constantly. It’s the reason when you unlock your door, every time you come back to lock the door, unlock the door you don’t have to relearn how to put the key in the lock. Well, the deeper, more impactful experience of understanding that is that anything that I practice, I become. So what do I want to practice? As a facilitator, if I’m practicing movement, if I’m practicing being kinesthetic in bringing these elements to the art of my facilitation, I will get better at them.

So I’m going to encourage you to do this as you move and flow through your process. If you’re sitting down and again, go ahead and stand up. Let’s add another experience so you get a sense of what I’m talking about. This one’s relatively popular. So I have a feeling, some of you probably done this one already. This can be used when you’re working with a group to start off the process, in the middle of we need to get some of that blood flow going again, or at the end as a way to get people excited, energized and engaged before you do some sort of closing, or to leave them with that good feeling. So it’s called shakedown. It works like this. In a moment I’m going to start counting ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Ten, nine, eight…. And each time I do that, you’re going to start off by shaking your right hand, ten, nine, eight, seven, six five four three, blah, blah.

We’ll move to the left-hand and switch counting down from 10. Then we’ll pick up the right foot and switch and then to the left foot. All right. Quick hint, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing right or left, just switch from one to the other. Here we go. Join me. Stand up. Let’s take a nice deep breath. All right. Get that right hand or left hand going. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Switch, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Right foot, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. If you are not able to stand up in your Zoom room, notice that you can do this with us. Shake the hand, shake the hand, shake the foot, shake a shoulder, shake a head, shake a knee, whatever it is that feels good to you to move.

If you’re able to stand up, definitely want to invite you to do that. All right. Now we’re going to start again our sequence, but we’re starting at nine. Same thing. Start with the right or left hand. Here we go. Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Foot, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Other hand again, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Six, five, four, three, two, one. Six, five, four, three, two, one. Six, five, four, three, two, one. Six, five, four, three, two, one.

Let’s pause here for a moment. Take a deep breath in. You should be feeling a little more energy flowing through your system. The next part of it goes pretty quickly y’all. This is five we’re starting at. All right, here we go, with gusto. Give it a nice shake like you’re trying to get water off those fingers and those toes, right? Here we go. Five, four, three, two, one. Five, four, three, two, one. Five, four, three, two, one. Five, four, three, two, one. Four, three, two, one. Four, three, two, one. Four, three, two, one. Four, three, two, one. Three, two, one. Three, two, one. Three, two, one. Three, two, one. Two, one. Two, one. Two, one. Two, one. One, one, one, one.

Nicely done. Take a nice deep breath in and exhale. If I float through that all the way without talking, that would’ve probably been a minute or so, but I want you to pause for a moment and just feel the difference in your neurology. Whether you did this with us standing or sitting, if you actually did it. You’ll notice something different happening in your awareness. You’ll notice something different happening in your conscious state. A state shift should have just occurred. So as facilitators, my invitation then is, “Let’s do this.” Let’s look at who we can become as we start to embody what it is to bring kinesthetics, what it is to bring movement to our virtual spaces. Again, it doesn’t matter whether these are five minute experiences or 30 second experiences.

So for this afternoon, we’re going to spend our time doing brain integration exercises. We’ll spend our time doing a bunch more of these types of “get the body moving” experiences. And I bet within the mix, you’ll able to find something that will fit a group that’s already willing to dive in and do these things and a group that’s more reticent and unwilling at first to do these kinds of things so that we can encourage people to find that sense of fulfillment even here in the Zoom and virtual space. So I’m looking forward to seeing you all this afternoon and thank you so much. Always a delight and pleasure to be part of Control the Room.