Managing Group Dynamics in a Candle Making Workshop

When it comes to planning a production, event, party or workshop, event/party/production/stage managers must take into account managing group dynamics. It’s not just about the vendors, the menu and the gift bags, there’s also a bit of sociology and psychology that comes into play in every event manager’s job.

In some ways you can monitor group dynamics by the exclusivity of your event. For instance, my yearly artist retreat is invite only. One of main factors in who I invite to my retreat is based on how I believe that woman can handle herself when she is outside her comfort zone and how she behaves amongst friends and strangers, alike. I already have less work to concern myself with in regards to group dynamics because that event is invite-only. 

"Glen Graham Photography"

You also see this kind of pre planning of group dynamics come into play with weddings. Many people do not invite their ex’s, or certain family members or certain acquaintances to their weddings. Amongst those who are invited, a lot of care goes into who sits at what table at the reception. When this is being decided social psychology, human behavior and group dynamics are being taken into account.

But what happens when you plan a DIY workshop that is open to the public? How do you monitor group dynamics then? How do you disperse the natural formation of cliques? What happens when there’s one bossy woman and its not the host? How do you foster openness, teamwork and fun amongst strangers? I have to consider this every time I plan and host a craft party. It’s a lot more than simply gluing macaroni on a frame. 

"Glen Graham Photography"

The first thing I must consider is the subject matter of the DIY workshop.

Certain crafts are labor intensive and involve intricate details. I usually avoid any craft that involves very tiny pieces of materials that need to be pieced together like puzzles. In a large group setting, this can be frustrating.

I also avoid crafts that lead to more introspective work. I try to pick activities that individuals can make for themselves but ones that still involve the attendees interacting with others.

Lastly, I try to find crafts that foster conversation and creativity versus a step by step plan where everyone just follows the leader. I prefer to  engage the attendees minds and spur their own creative actions. For instance when explaining the process of making candles, one attendee mentioned she had seen a video showing a different way to make the candle. “Let’s try that way too, then!” I said. I made sure to let the group know that if they had opinions and suggestions, they were more than welcomed to share them.

The point is, if I choose an activity that is low stress, creative and that fosters engagement amongst attendees, it will affect the energy of the individual and the group allowing for a more open environment than one of frustration, exclusion and introversion.  And you thought I picked a homemade body scrub simply because they smell and feel good! 

"Glen Graham Photography"

The second thing I must consider are the ways I can shake up default behavior.

The third installment of our DIY workshop series involved creating hand poured, homemade vegan and beeswax candles. I knew this activity would draw a larger crowd than before. With 40 attendee tickets sold, I knew I needed to find ways to break default behavioral patterns.

I knew there would be groups of friends coming together. Mother/daughter groups. Classmates. Best friends and more. On top of that, I knew there would be people coming all by themselves. I knew the relationship statuses, religious views, ages and careers would be diverse. And yet we all were going to sit around a table and craft for four hours with hot wax!

This is what I did to break up any thing that might be uncomfortable.

Because we had to make the candles in batches and I only had so many huge bowls and measuring cups and because I didn’t want the room to smell like every single essential oil in the world, I decided I would create three signature scents that attendees could choose between for their personal candles. There was a relaxing sensual scent, a citrus scent and a more earthy natural scent. Once I explained how to make the candles & set guidelines for appropriate behavior, I told everyone they had to rearrange their seats to sit in their “scent” group because we could only make 3 large batches of candles at a time by each scent. While friends may love each other, its VERY rare that a group of five girlfriends are all going to pick a citrus scented candle as their favorite to make. By having the attendees sit according to the smell of their homemade candle, it broke up any default cliques or groupings and it encouraged everyone to mingle.

 "Glen Graham Photography"

As the workshop progressed, along with directing staff, providing activity instructions and being a pleasant, engaging host, I constantly took note of the energy of the group. I noted when I needed to step in and assist, I noted when some quick problem solving, team management and communication was needed and if all else failed I passed around another tray of cupcakes or bowl of truffles.

Planning, managing and hosting events, parties, workshops, retreats and more, may seem glamorous and fun. And teaching crafts and activities definitely is an engaging thing to do. But there is more to planning and managing than selecting vendors, menus and designing flyers. Party Planners and Event Managers are also Facilitators of Team and Group Dynamics.

"Glen Graham Photography"

When hosting your next event, don’t forget to take that into account. Perhaps select your location, activity, menu and even invitation list based on the type of dynamic you want to experience and the kind of dynamic you want your guests to experience.

This upcoming Sunday, September 8th, we’re hosting the fifth installment of Crafts + Cupcakes. If you’re free, join us! It’s lots of fun! You can purchase tickets here.

 "Sheena LaShay"

Interesting Articles

…although searching on Google Scholar would probably yield better results.

Improving Group Dynamics

Managing Group and Team Dynamics

Role of a Facilitator

 All Photos are by Glen Graham Photography.

(If you’re hosting an event and want great images, hire Glen or myself or both of us. :-) )

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