Photo by Photo Credit: Tim Gouw
What does that workshop look like? Chances are, you have to take time out of your day to craft the framework for the workshop, then invite a handful of highly selected people into a room for somewhere between a couple of hours to a few days, to discuss the topic and draft ideas.
But your work doesn’t stop there. You, the host, must then spend hours compiling all of the data that has been generated during that workshop, and structure it in a way that you can make sense of it all.
If you could take simple steps to ensure better outcomes would you do it? Of course! Workshops have become the necessary evil. You need them to gather ideas, but each one requires a lot of your already limited time, effort and energy.
The Invite: Put together a clear and concise invitation for your team members and read it over before sending it out. Ask yourself, if this was my first time reading this, would I have all of the information that I need as a participant? Consider creating a link to more information or the actual virtual workshop brief with even more supplemental information and instructions.
Diversity Is Better: When selecting participants, be sure to select members of different teams, with different backgrounds to gather together different ways of thinking, which will produce better outcomes.
Expect the Unexpected: We focus so much on the workshop, the messaging, the framework, that when a hiccup happens it can cause us to freeze up. Fire drills, phone calls, the one detractor, these things happen. It’s life. Expect one of these things to happen, so that if and when it does, you can get back on track and keep moving.
Learn Some IceBreakers: Short activities that engage everyone in the room or on the call are a great way to make people feel comfortable with each other. Some of them even can help to jumpstart the creative process. Try some at home with your family, with friends, or a subset of your team members, and see what they think before testing them out with a large group.
Draw Up an Outline: By creating a physical framework or outline for the the workshop, you can successfully practice navigating through the workshop in its entirety, honing your instructions and prompts so that they are clear and effective. This outline will help you to gauge where you are during the workshop and manage your time effectively.
Practice: Whether it’s in the physical location of the workshop, your office, your car, or even the shower, actually saying the words out loud will help you to feel confident in saying them in front of your participants. It will also help you catch when something doesn’t sound quite right or needs clarification.
Use a digital framework: By leveraging technology to facilitate the meeting, you save valuable time and energy, but also ensure that ideas are gathered and tied to their creators. Svava is currently developing a free SaaS to help workshop facilitators host a better workshop.
Use a Template: No matter what type of workshop you are hosting, someone has done something similar before. Find a template and then tweak it, so that it fits your purpose, organization and participants. This will help to better facilitate the actual workshop.
Get Specific: The More specific you can get with the goals of your workshops, the better you’ll be able to explain it to your participants, and thus enable them to produce better ideas and feedback.
Ensure Participation: By structuring your workshops to include a method for all participants to submit ideas and provide feedback you’ll get more out of your efforts. Often asking for everyone to participate in a stage before moving on is a great way to get people to become active participants.
Monitor and Maintain Energy Levels: When the energy level in a workshop starts to drop, it’s palpable. You can feel it. And once it’s lost, it becomes difficult to get it back. By monitoring participants throughout the workshop, you can spot opportunities to take breaks, grab a snack, conduct another exercise, etc.
It Doesn’t Have to End here: People’s minds don’t stop working on problems or challenges just because the workshop is over. Providing your team members with a digital tool or environment to continue to submit ideas after the end of the physical workshop is a great way to avoid missing opportunities, ideas, feedback and more. If this tool is used during the workshop, it also provides transparency, allowing those who couldn’t attend the ability to read through and provide feedback on the results of the workshop.
Follow Up: After the event, when the ideas that will move forward have been selected, it’s important to follow up with your participants and let them know what is happening. When they don’t hear anything they often become frustrated or lose interest in the workshops.
Do It More Often: Host smaller workshops on a more frequent basis. When you create smaller, clearly defined goals, your participants can generate more targeted, more well defined ideas in less time.
Gain a Helping Hand: Empower more people to host workshops. You cannot be everywhere at one time, and can only work so many hours in one day. By empowering other team members to host workshops, you can engage more minds, on more topics, more frequently.