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Workshops provide a forum for individuals and groups to explore areas of mutual interest or concern – skills, problems, or possibilities. And often the expectation is that you, as the manager, will lead and conduct the workshop, thus providing another opportunity for you to demonstrate your leadership and group skills – if you do it well. Here are some considerations to help you prepare for that next opportunity…

1. Do the hard yards early – get prepared.

Preparation is essential. If you are not prepared, postpone the workshop until you are. Preliminary considerations should focus on:

  • Timing – the topic must be relevant to the period and participants’ needs.
  • Establishing outcomes – fuzziness upfront will create problems later.
  • Deciding on essential knowledge and skills – pre-workshop training may be required to ensure effective participation on the day.
  • Identifying possible attendees – wall flowers are merely excess baggage.
  • Developing materials to suit the audience – even the best materials will fail with the wrong audience.
  • Liaising with any other providers – they’ll be expecting to hear from you.
  • Inviting participants, disseminating an agenda, arranging facilities, and providing directions if necessary.

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2. Plan the format.

Sequence activities to help achieve your desired outcomes. Adult learning techniques should guide the approaches you use (Kolb, for example, advocated a balance between activity, reflection, theory building, and consideration of any practical application). Ideally, the workshop should commence with an icebreaker to help the group relax, establish rapport, and help focus attention on the aim of the workshop. Plan to scatter energisers (short, sharp exercises or activities) throughout the session to help refocus attention on the tasks at hand.

3. Arrive early.

You must be the first person to arrive at the venue. Check all equipment. Arrange seating to suit the purpose of the first session – e.g. theatre style, U-shape, or round tables. Greet people as they arrive. Direct people to refreshments. Introduce people to one another and generally make them feel welcome. The work done now will make your task much easier later. Housekeeping issues may be dealt with here rather than at the start of the workshop.

4. Start on time.

Never penalise those who arrive on time by waiting for stragglers. If a senior executive does not want to get things under way, you do it. Act and sound authoritative, but warm. Use an icebreaker, if necessary. Introduce yourself and ensure everyone knows each other’s name, job, special skills, and what they want to get out of the workshop. Make the objectives of the program clear. Display them where they can be seen clearly. Review the agenda so people are aware of how you are aiming to achieve your objectives. Establish ground rules.

5. Remain relaxed.

Adopt the attitude that there is nothing that can happen in the workshop that you can’t handle. Your nonverbal and verbal responses will contribute substantially to the climate of the workshop. Be guided by these suggestions:

  • If things don’t go according to plan, there’s no need to apologise. Move on.
  • If you don’t have an answer to a question, ask others. And if they don’t have the answer, offer to get back to them later.
  • Keep away from jargon. Paradigms, parameters, and other management mumbo-jumbo are a turn-off for many participants.
  • Use visuals wherever possible; they’re much more effective than verbal instructions.
  • Make sure all material and language you use are culturally neutral. The need for cultural sensitivity cannot be overemphasised.
  • Repeat or rephrase questions that are not heard by everyone in the audience.
  • The attention span of most adults is about seven minutes, so vary your pace and presentation techniques accordingly.
  • Cater for the anticipated ‘slow time’ after lunch. High activity will beat a video or lecture at these times.

Finally, remember that the word ‘facilitator’, with a Latin derivation, means ‘one who makes things easy’.

6. End on time – with the right message.

Stick to your committed finishing time. Begin the wrap-up about thirty minutes before then. Provide a summary of accomplishments. Invite others’ input. Evaluate the workshop by distributing a short survey or use a less formal approach like handing out small cards and inviting a positive comment on one side and an improvement suggestion on the other. Thank participants and outline further follow-up.

7. Review the workshop.

Use the planned outcomes, the feedback provided, and your own impressions to evaluate the success or otherwise of the workshop. Decide on your next step. Act promptly and program further meetings if required.

8. Observe other workshop facilitators.

All presenters have their own unique styles. Watch other people conduct workshops and you will learn much. And by ‘borrowing’ ideas you can add to your repertoire of skills.

If you interested in learning more about these types of skills or are seeking further training in a particular area you can contact us on 1800 998 500, email us at [email protected] or visit our website.