This is one of the most versatile exercises a facilitator can incorporate. Great for introductions, the Spectrogram furthermore combines movement with participants taking a physical stand on their perspectives.
Allen Gunn and the folks at Aspiration Tech have a detailed description of how to facilitate the Spectrogram, and it is included as an activity in the LevelUp curriculum, but here below are some simple guidelines to get you started.
The Spectrogram is designed to elicit perspectives and insight from participants. Without intentional facilitation, it can easily lose focus or inspire arguments or confrontation. Make sure you provide clear instructions and are a proactive, engaged facilitator.
Draw a straight line in the middle of the room, going from one wall or barrier to the opposite; or, encourage everyone to imagine a line.
Invite everyone to stand on the line in relation to how far they travelled to get to the event (ex: one side of the wall is one block, and the other is 10,000 kilometers). Ask a few people to note their name and where they came from. Celebrate and thank those who came from far away, and give thanks to everyone who has invested their time with the group for the gathering.
Introduce the Spectrogram exercise. Note to participants that they will be asked their views on a number of statements and be invited to physically place themselves in relation to one wall, which is “Strongly Agree” and the opposite wall, which is “Strongly Disagree.”
Have statements (not questions!) prepared in advance, and written out on large paper so everyone can see them clearly. They should be short, memorable, engaging and relevant to both everyone in attendance and the content of the gathering (ex: if the gathering was for human rights advocates, a good statement would be “The International Criminal Court is a great tool for justice.”).
Invite people to shift their placing when they hear a compelling point.Be careful to ensure participants do not shame or argue with the opposite side, but make the case as to why they are where they are.
Organizers or facilitators can create the spectrogram statements in advance, or they can crowd-source them at the event. To do this, get participants into small groups of 3 to 5 people and provide each group 5 to 10 minutes to list out as many statements that relate to the gathering as they can think of.
One favorite statement for this exercise is, “I know exactly what I want to accomplish during this gathering”, which helps tease out motivations and give facilitators an idea of how intentional or prepared participants are. Another fun one is, “I will take shareable notes during the event”.
This is a fast way to gauge participants’ experience, interests and background. Start with everyone against one wall and explain that there are strong wind gusts coming from the wall. Whenever the wind blows for a particular skill, experience or attribute, the persons with that attribute will blow into the room and then back to the wall.
Some examples of wind gusts that may be good to explore: The wind blows for brothers / sisters / artists / technologists / singers / people who can ride a bike / people who think there are aliens / people who sing in the shower.
This is a fun, quick exercise that allows folks to make some connections with others who may share certain attributes, interests or skills. Lastly, if movement amongst participants is an issue, you could do this exercise with people standing or holding up hands or paper.
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