Thirty years as an entrepreneur and business owner have taught ForumSherpa’s Deb Venable a few things about the struggles and obstacles of growing a business and leading successful teams. As a leader in strategy, coaching and training—and as an expert in Forum 2.0®, Forum Basics, and a long list of other specialties, Deb has led Forum retreats all over the United States.

We caught up with Deb to chat about her experiences with Forum, from the beginning of her Forum journey all the way through being a great Facilitator.

ForumSherpa: What led you to join Forum, and what has led you to stay in Forum?

Deb Venable: Being an entrepreneur is exciting and invigorating—but it can also be lonely and confusing. What led me to Forum was finally finding a group of peers who could relate to my opportunities and struggles.

I’ve been with my Forum for over 20 years, and every year I learn from them, grow with them, and have found a safe place to share my biggest business and personal challenges. One of the many reasons I look forward to every meeting is that we get to celebrate each other’s wins and help each other overcome our obstacles.

FS: How do you feel that Forum has helped you evolve, both as a businessperson and as an individual?

DV: There are eight of us in my Forum. All of us come from very different personal and professional backgrounds. Each of us brings a unique and special perspective to challenges and situations. When one of our Forum members brings an issue to the rest of the group, there are a total of eight different perspectives and ideas on how to resolve it. And that’s very unique! This has helped me to see things from different angles, so it’s helped my own thought process evolve.

FS: What are some of the most important and valuable lessons you’ve learned thanks to your Forum experience, both as a member and as a Facilitator?

DV: As a member of Forum, the most important lesson I’ve learned is how to be vulnerable and really speak my truth. Forum is designed to a safe place where no judgement lives. Truly being honest with yourself and others is an incredible freeing experience.

As a Facilitator, it is an incredible feeling to see forums bond by opening up to one another. They are often more alike than they think—similar fears and desires. When I work with groups and they break through the wall of insecurity, everyone benefits. And then the real magic of change and growth can happen!

FS: What do you love most about being a Forum Facilitator?

DV: I love seeing an entire Forum rally around each other. The support and love are mind blowing. Forum retreats are incredible bonding experiences, and the members really open up and get to know each other on a deeper level. Even after years of knowing each other, they still have a lot to learn about each other, and a retreat is the perfect venue. As a Facilitator, I get to witness this time and time again, and it’s something I always look forward to with every retreat.

FS: What is your favorite tool or exercise? 

DV: I love Forum 2.0® because it teaches Forums how to approach a topic or their presentations in different—and often more productive—ways.

Debate is one of my favorite Forum 2.0® tools. It allows the Presenter to decide between two choices. Basically, the members form two teams, and each team presents their perspective. This helps the Presenter make a well-rounded and informed decision because they hear two different sides. It’s also beneficial to the rest of the Forum since they have to consider the opposing side and alternative ideas for a resolution.

FS: Why should Forums hire a Facilitator for their retreat? How should they choose the best Facilitator for their specific Forum and retreat?

DV: Hiring a Facilitator allows all Forum members equal engagement in the exercises. All members can be fully present without having to lead or guide a discussion. And all are free to participate.

Since each Forum is unique, there’s no “one size fits all” Facilitator. To find the best one, interview a few Facilitators and make sure they fit your Forum’s personality and culture. Find one that can connect with your Forum and bring experience to your group.

FS: Are there any particularly funny or interested stories you’d like to share about a retreat, or a particularly favorite destination?

DV: Absolutely! I was once on a hike in Aspen during a retreat and saw a black bear about 30 feet away. It was pretty breathtaking!

On another retreat, we lost power during a presentation and finished in candlelight. It was very powerful, and turned a potentially stressful or negative situation into an amazing experience.

My overall favorite takeaway is the energy. At the end of the retreat, you feel like you can take on the world!


Deb can help your Forum make the most of your next retreat! Contact us to find out Deb’s availability!