How to conduct a workshop

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.

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.

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