how to make the most of a workshop

Have people invited, serve them posh lunch and impose your company’s information. This is how most of us perceive workshops. Arguably, workshop is one of the most used yet misunderstood professional buzz words. However, there is a way to

The depth of “Why”
If you start by asking: “Why are you organizing a workshop?”, you are a step closer to organizing a great workshop. However, just having the objectives written does not make a great workshop, but aligning all the contents and plans accordingly does. Most common objectives of a workshop are to inform, educate, co-create, inspire, network and solicit support.

First of all, listing all the objectives of the workshop would help resolve most of the confusions. Deviating away from your objectives is where the blunders start. To simplify things, how about tallying the objectives against SMART measures–Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound, to have exceptional and achievable objectives for workshops.

The steps also help you figure out where you should invest your efforts. Quite often, organizers emphasize on logistical arrangements such as invitations, equipments and refreshments than focusing on the actual content of the workshop. Breaking down workshop objectives is more important than investing in managing logistics and designing sessions.

 What do you expect from a workshop?
Over expectation from a workshop is a common fever. A naïve question to begin with is whether you are expecting too much from a workshop. We treat workshops as a platform where we expect to achieve all our goals.

Out of my facilitation career anecdotes, I usually recall an INGO’s workshop facilitation while talking about setting objectives. One of the objectives mentioned was: “Participants will initiate actions as a result of information provided in the workshop”. Though the objective looked absolutely fine in the first reading, it does not follow the basic principle: ‘Just writing objectives do not make much difference, how you set them matter.’

Can you make the participants do something through a mere workshop? Probably the only thing you can achieve is inform, thus motivating them to do something that you desire as a result. As organizers and facilitators we have to be aware about limitations of a workshop. Most organizers entrust setting too many objectives for a meager workshop. The objective should have been re-written as: “Participants will be motivated to initiate action as a result of information provided in the workshop”.

What do the participants expect?

No matter how carefully you set your objectives, if it doesn’t match the participants it isn’t of much use. It is also true that you can hardly achieve 100% participants’ satisfaction rate. However, few steps can reduce the probable discontent.

Step 1: Before the workshop ask the participants about their expectations from the workshop. You can use multiple tools to know it. The best way is to get each individual to write down their expectations.

Step 2: Place them in the front to acquaint participants with wide range of expectations. Group them based on themes and appropriateness.

Step 3: Now simply compare the expectations against the objectives. You will be surprised to see the expectations’ diversity and its variance from the objectives.

Step 4: After the comparison, tell the participants what they should expect to achieve from the workshop; do not make false promises.

Another interesting way to solicit participants support is to list how they can contribute to the success of the workshop.

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