A media training for the gay rights group Respect 2 Love in Amsterdam recently was a classic example of daring to follow the mood of trainees. Within five minutes of starting the training I ditched my original plans and started to improvise.
The young trainees (all with an immigrant background) were vociferous, enthusiastic and committed. But lacking direction and experience. I realised immediately that the best approach was to let them do the talking and asked them to tell me about the media: which news sources and social media do they use?
It was clear that they wanted to make their voices heard but they had no idea how to do it effectively. They played down the importance of daily incidents of racism and sexual discrimination.
They didn’t realise that together they could combine personal anecdotes, news, comments and advice into an attractive communication platform for thousands of other young bisexual, homosexual, lesbian or transgender people who live in the Netherlands and come from different cultural backgrounds.
And so the idea to set up an interactive communal blog was born and the group didn’t take long to select a charismatic transgender woman and a talented communicator, to be the platform’s public face.
Going with the flow is great when it works. But it only really works when you have a clear framework in which improvisation takes place. Preparing a one-hour ‘media training lite’ programme was an excellent take-off point for the freewheeling discussion that followed. And it was only possible because of that preparation.