Providing guidance to participants and and their loved ones about what they can expect and what they should do during a program is an important step in supporting participants and achieving successful engagement. It can also include setting ground-rules or creating a social contract. In any case, managing expectations builds comfort, reduces anxiety, and helps to get people prepared before a program starts. There are a few different elements in this development that can be used and shared in different ways. These include:
This can be printed information that is sent by mail or email that lets people know in advance what they need to bring or have prepared, what will happen during the program, and how to get ready for their experience. This includes both an initial contact, and a weekly reminder prior to each session. For virtual programs, this is especially useful for sharing virtual links or phone numbers the day before or day of a program so they don’t have to search for them. This can include things like:
At the start of each session
Use the first few moments to welcome everyone by name, and share some social exchange. This builds familiarity and rapport in the group – this validates each person as an interesting and valued individual, rather than just an audience. It also takes away the feeling of rushing into the program and makes the group more comfortable. Don’t count on everyone remembering names or instructions – by restating everything each week there is no pressure or discomfort. Consider building a mindful practice to start a program. This can be as simple as a one-word check-in to see how people are feeling, to a more elaborate breathing or visualization exercise. A mindful practice should be something that feels authentic to each facilitator, but is a great way to put aside any feelings that have carried over from early moments in the day.