Workshops that work! (Part 1)

Magnified illustration with the words Workshop on white background.

Let me begin with an original quote 🙂

“The only reason that a workshop hasn’t worked, is because you haven’t!”

Workshops are a great way to bring the stakeholders together and to arrive at a consensus. One might be armed with the best of presentations and workshop activities, but you can never be sure of a great workshop until we identify and cater to the most important component – the participants!

I love workshops – both conducting and participating. It is an exciting feeling to have a roomful of audience who are waiting to,

  1. have their knowledge requirements fulfilled
  2. work together to achieve a whole that is much bigger than the sum of the parts
  3. challenge their comfort zones and pick up new skills
  4. share their knowledge and expertise
  5. solve problems that have haunted them

As you can see, the stakes are quite high! Ensuring that the participant walk away with the satisfaction on a day well spent, a day that brought them closer to their goals is thus mandatory. There is an amazing amount of experience and creativity to be tapped at workshops and I strong feel that there is an equal learning opportunity for both the workshop facilitator as well as the participants.

My experiences from the visioning, prioritisation and brainstorming workshops that I have conducted helped me understand/segment my participants better. Classifying and understanding the participant early on helps in faster bonding and in the deployment of the appropriate technique to ensure participation and inputs. Here are my six types of participants:

1. The EXCItrons: ”This is the workshop I have been waiting for!”

They are excited to be there in the workshop and ready to go! They need just the direction.

2. The WALLtrons: “Should I say this, or should I not?”

They are interested in the workshop, but need a gentle nudge before they are completely in.

3. The QUIEtrons: “Let me observe and be a passive participant”

Shy/reticent, they need to be involved. They do great work, but are silent about it.

Call them out for their opinion to get them talking and participating.

4. The WHYtrons: “Why am I here?”

They are still thinking on why are they in the workshop in the first place.

Make them understand their importance in this exercise and in the implementation of the future state.

5. The DISRUPtrons: “I have been forced to attend this!”

Joking, chatting, using their mobile phones and not really contributing characterizes this group. Just spend some time with them, looking over their shoulder and ensuring they contribute. A couple of questions and the value that they could bring to the table should settle it in most cases.

6. The I-Trons: “I love ideas – especially when they are mine!”

They could be in any of the above groups. They will provide unsolicited opinion and will try to shoot down any idea if it does not appeal to them. Lay down the rules – ideate first, scrutinize later.

Nothing beats preparation and an exciting agenda/activities list!

To Summarise this post,

– Workshops mean a lot to the organising stakeholders – we need to adopt the organization’s motives as our own and become a temporary employee!

– Each participant has the potential to add a tremendous amount of value – it lies in how we can tap it

-Workshops do not have to be conventional – creativity, visioning and fun activities do just fine if not much better!

 Next part: Getting ready for the workshop + tip & tricks that work wonders for me!

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