Workshops are an excellent way of getting yourself in front of potential clients. Running workshops is something I really enjoy. Over the years I’ve learned a few things about designing and facilitating them that I’d like to share with you. Here are seven things you can do to create an optimum learning environment for your workshop.
- Set up a comfortable workshop space. Nothing does more to kill a good workshop experience than a poorly lit room that is too hot or too cold, too big or too small. Avoid having chairs lined up with military precision. If possible, request ahead of time a U-shaped seating pattern. This provides for greater intimacy and participation. Also, ask for a room that will comfortably hold the number of participants attending. Finally, always arrive early to check out your room and make certain it’s set up to your specifications.
- Greet participants when they arrive. I always make a point of welcoming participants and giving them a folder of workshop resources. This creates a friendly, inclusive atmosphere and allows you to get a quick sense of who’s attending your workshop.
- Avoid telling participants what they already know.Remember that your workshop participants are a tremendous resource from which to draw. Adult learners bring a wealth of experience. Start with the assumption that your participants already have some experience and ideas about the topic.
- Check out expectations. This flows from the point above. One way to find out what people want to learn is to ask them! Somewhere near the beginning of my sessions I make a point of asking people for their workshop expectations.
- Build in participatory activities. Avoid lecturing. If you must, keep it short – like five minutes! People enjoy being involved. How many activities you can do will depend on the size of your group and the length of your workshop. If the group is small, fewer than twenty, use pairs or triads to get people engaged with one another. For example, in determining expectations, I divide the group into pairs. I ask each person in the pair to describe to the other what it is they most want to learn. After about five minutes I bring everyone back to the group and solicit their expectations. Then I write these on a flip chart. For a list of other engaging activities click here.
- Create a safe and comfortable learning experience. Your workshop participants will, for the most part, be strangers to one another. They need to feel comfortable with each other before speaking up in the group. That’s why I design ways to get people into smaller clusters which allows participants to get to know one another more easily.
- Lead by example. Your words, body language, and tone should read relaxed, attentive, non-judgmental, supportive, and open. I often start my sessions by saying, “In our workshop today no one gets to be wrong…including me!” I emphasize that all questions are legitimate and will be listened to respectfully.
Photo by kellerabteil
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