Facilitate like a Boss – Crowd Control

Workshop personalities icons

Following up on my last post, Facilitate like a Boss – Well maybe not quite like a Boss which is inspired by the Academy Xi presentation by Rich Brophy called ‘Facilitate like a Boss: Tips, Tricks and Hacks to Level-Up your Workshops’. Rich highlighted 5 workshop personalities that can make facilitation a bit of a challenge sometimes. Each of these personalities has their own quirks and disruptive features.

Workshop Personalities

The ‘experienced one’

They have been here before and know everything about what they are supposed to do. If they are in a group they will lead them down rabbit holes away from the goals.

Some of the tips to control the rabbit holes is to encourage them to reflect on the value of different approaches to tasks. If all else fails, appoint someone different to guide the group.

The deep diver

They have the ability to dissect everything, drilling down into every little detail. Questioning to the nth degree. They struggle to move forward through the exercises.

One of the crowd control tips for deep divers is to force their hand by setting their questions back to them.  Another is to reframe the challenge which extra clarity, like given what we currently know this is the question we are answering or within the current framework we need to find a solution.

The detailer

When offering opinions the detailer will regale a long story of how and why they have got to this opinion or what happened last time. They bamboozle the other people to win favour and to appear knowledgeable. The detailer inhibits others from sharing their opinions.

The way to combat the detailer is to set an alarm for exercises and stick to the timing points throughout the workshop. Also, lead by example by not being too detailed or too basic and aiming for just right in your own presenting.


The HiPPO or highest paid person’s opinion is pretty self-explanatory. Sometimes you can use them to your advantage if you get them to introduce the workshop and they re-enforce that they want everyone to participate and that there are no wrong answers or ideas. But sometimes (well maybe more than that) they state their opinion of what the outcome or solutions should be creating a Halo effect (more on that in the next newsletter). The HiPPO can squash participants enthusiasm and/or creativity.

As the facilitator, we can take the edge off the HiPPO’s statement by reminding everyone of what the true purpose of the workshop is. Reinforcing that the workshop is one of democracy, everyone’s voice counts.

The devil’s advocate

The devil’s advocate puts the brakes on ideas and thoughts with statements like that will never work because or we tried that last time and it didn’t work. This attitude leads to a loss of direction in the group and no way forward.

Explaining to the participants that the meeting is a safe place for ideas and that no thought is a stupid one. Also, using  “we can worry about the logistics later” can provide a space for ideas to flow again.

A couple of extra ones

These are a couple of extra personalities that I have come across.

The shy

The shy is the quiet person who never speaks or when they do it’s always when other people aren’t listening. They can often be quite engaged but just find it hard to share their insights and ideas with others. This can lead to missing out on ideas for the rest of the participants.

Having a variety of different activities helps the shy. Small groups, writing things or solo quiet work are all ways to get their input into the workshop. Putting up one of my favourite quotes also helps remind the others about the art of listening.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus

The why bother

A why bother is that person who has a look of despair that they are yet again in a workshop. They have been here before and have even engaged in the past but not anymore. They have been broken by the system. Some will be pessimistic and others quiet and disengaged. Their knowledge is lost to the group unless they can be re-engaged.

Of course, re-engaging them can be quite challenging. Quite often activities which force them to engage without having to speak can start to help them find their voice. Also asking them directly for their input will reinforce their reason for being part of the workshop. Remind the participants why their insights and input are so important to the outcomes and that the best outcomes come from listening and understanding everyone’s viewpoints.

The “my way or the highway”

The “my way or the highway” participant states their opinions decisively and with authority. They dominate the discussion. These behaviours undermine group consensus in any collaborative activity or group learning exercises.

To combat the “my way or the highways” acknowledge their input and directly ask others to contribute to the conversation. Highlight that there are many different ways to see problems, ideas and solutions. Each person has a default lens through which they see the world. Your reality is your reality and it will be different to everyone else’s reality.


I really found these personas help me with the crowd control and engagement of participants in workshops and meetings. They encourage me to be more adaptable and empathic. What personalities have I missed? Do you have any tips or hints yourself?