7 Great Workshop Tips
Creating a collaborative environment is the key to great facilitation. It is essential everyone knows and feels they have something useful to offer. You want your participants saying at the end of the workshop, ‘I didn’t even know that I was thinking that, but I am clear on my thinking now.’ Some of your participants will be hesitant to be involved and sometimes feel overawed by the group.
Here are 7 Great Tips to make your workshop a success.
When planning each workshop, I always start with a mind map to establish a clear picture of the best process to develop. After nearly 15 years as a professional facilitator I have developed a suite of facilitation assets that I call on to tailor each experience. Also colloquially known as a ‘bag of tricks,’ whilst generic facilitation techniques by nature, they are always adapted to the individual needs of each experience. Then a GREAT agenda should be developed, and where necessary a workbook for your group to follow with clearly stated instructions and time goals. Often a presentation is useful to keep your process understood and on track.
Creating a collaborative environment is the key to great facilitation. It is essential everyone knows and feels they have something useful to offer. You want your participants saying at the end of the workshop, ‘I didn’t even know that I was thinking that, but I am clear on my thinking now.’ Some of your participants will be hesitant to be involved and sometimes feel overawed by the group. It is a good idea for each participant to start each facilitation by introducing themselves – even if they know each other, and ask them to add statements such as: I am excited about today because? A great dinner experience I once had was _____ because? The best holiday that I have ever been on was _____ because? These icebreakers will calm everyone down and show that it is ok to contribute and engage right from the get-go. Another great game to play with a group that know each other is Three Truths and A Lie – But more about that another time.
I personal like to introduce two activities early in the day 1. I will judge this workshop a useful use of my time if _______ and 2. Who stands to gain? i.e. if we get good outcomes from this workshop.
At Strategy1st first we apply a solution-based thinking ethos to each experience, which means that major issues or opportunities are suitably explored and not left in the room. This implies that the whole group can take responsibility for the solutions and not just see their role as identifying the problems.
We pride ourselves on tailoring small to large group processes that are engaging with a healthy balance of active interaction and instruction. We always ensure there is enough energy among the group to remain responsive and on track.
It is important to vary your techniques and as previously suggested ensuring your room / workspace is appropriate. The workspace is critical, and we will go to great lengths to firstly ensure the space for the workshop is appropriate and then create a process that is negotiated with each client. We insist on each experience being of benefit, whilst always focusing on the serious side of getting the job done.
It is also important to realise that people have deferring and preferred learning / engagement styles, some like to hear instructions, others need to see them and most love to just do it. When planning your process make sure you cater to each of these styles.
Jake Knapp, Googler and the author of Sprint, a book about running innovation workshops, explains this phenomenon:
As humans, our short-term memory is not all that good, but our spatial memory is awesome. A sprint room, plastered with notes, diagrams, printouts, and more, takes advantage of that spatial memory. The room itself becomes a sort of shared brain for the team
Try to make sure your process is fun. People will remain engaged with a process that combines work requirements with a fun perspective. I like to break workshops up with movement and non-threatening ‘refresher’ games. Please note it does take some experience assisting your group to switch from fun to work mode, but it is worth trying in the interests of maintaining good energy across a number of hours.
Finally, when planning your workshop have the end game in your mind. Check-in on the deliverables and ensure the outcomes of the workshop are summarised in the report. This is both your accountability to the process and your participants’ accountability that actions are expected. Don’t forget to include timelines and measures of success. These elements will really confirm you have offered a worthwhile experience.